Tight lips and confusion after Dacono City Manager fired without explanation
The long-time city manager of Dacono, AJ Euckert, was unexpectedly fired at a city council meeting last week. While the move appeared to be a coordinated effort among some council members, others were caught completely off guard.
The February 13th meeting opened with Mayor Adam Morehead proudly presenting AJ Euckert with an award recognizing his 20 years of service as the city manager. Less than an hour later, Euckert was out of a job.
It happened after the otherwise routine meeting was closing, when council member and Mayor Pro-Tem Kathryn Wittman spoke up.
“I have a motion,” Wittman said. “I make a motion to terminate employment of the city manager effective immediately.” Councilmember Jim Turini seconded the motion immediately.
Other council members seemed caught off guard and flustered. City Attorney Kathleen Kelly tried to offer counsel. ”I would encourage the city council to have some discussion on the motion,” Kelly said before being cut off by councilman Danny Long.
“No discussion,” Long insisted. “Call for a vote.”
Discussion was blocked by 4 members of the city council, and moments later, Euckert was fired with no explanation on a 4-2 vote. Councilmembers Kathryn Wittman, Danny Long, Jackie Thomas and Jim Turini voted to fire the city manager.
Councilmembers Kevin Plain and Doris Crespo voted against the resolution. They, along with Mayor Adam Morehead and City Attorney Kathleen Kelly, were in disbelief. “Unreal,” Morehead exclaimed, as the outcome sunk in.
Euckert was not fired for cause. The four council members who voted for his termination did not give a reason for doing so and did not respond to KUNC’s request for comment.
AJ Euckert did not respond to KUNC's attempt to reach him.
Councilmember Kevin Plain told KUNC that from his perspective, the termination came out of nowhere. “That night, I just, I just was stunned,” Plain said. “I couldn't believe… I mean, it was surreal.”
Plain said that he did not agree with the move and didn’t have any insight into his colleagues’ decision to fire Euckert. “A.J. Euckert is one of the most energetic city managers I've ever met,” he said. “He's very good at his job.”
“I absolutely had no idea it was coming,” councilwoman Doris Crespo told KUNC. “I was really heartbroken. A hard working man was fired, and I don't even know why.”
Mayor Adam Morehead was angry about the firing. He saw it as a planned effort among the 4 councilmembers who voted for the termination. “We worked together,” Morehead said of Euckert, whom he viewed as a competent and trusted colleague. The way he was fired “was meant for maximum humiliation,” Morehead said.
But it’s not just the humiliation Morehead is concerned about. The apparently coordinated effort could violate open meetings laws, which require that public policy be conducted in the open, accessible to public scrutiny, in other words, not in secret backroom meetings.
“It opens us up to litigation,” Morehead said, of the apparent backroom coordination of Euckert’s firing. “There's liability. And of course, being the mayor, I'm concerned about liability for the city.”