2015 Year in Review: Aurora city manager Noe survives a contentious year at city hall

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AURORA | Political fog swirled around a city council divided over the performance of Aurora City Manager Skip Noe in 2015 as a slim majority of six city council members consistently and staunchly backed Noe just as five demanded he resign.

“He’s staying, and we have a very fractured council,” said Councilwoman Barb Cleland, who was one of five councilwomen to push forward a surprise vote of no confidence for Noe at a January city council meeting that failed. That meeting was followed by three more closed-door meetings concerning Noe.

Councilwoman Sally Mounier, one of the five to vote that she had no confidence in Noe as city manager, told the Sentinel he has problems working with female council members.

“We’re treated like this: ‘Sit down. Don’t get hysterical. Take three Midols,’” she said.

Skip Noe on Monday April 13, 2015 at Aurora Municipal Center. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)The four other women to give a vote of no confidence were Renie Peterson, Molly Markert, Sally Mounier and Marsha Berzins. Peterson has since distanced herself from accusations of Noe’s treatment of women on city council and said she has worked out her issues with him. Charlie Richardson has since taken over Markert’s Ward IV seat following the 2015 municipal election and said he will not comment on the issue until he has spent more time on city council.     

Despite a focus on allegations that Noe treated council women poorly, most of the issues those critical of Noe discussed focused on other claims.

Markert said each of the councilwomen who voted similarly had different issues, but that they follow a common theme.

“The common theme is that (problems) are not dealt with efficiently, timely, accurately or in accordance with our stated preferences,” she said.

Despite that and other inflammatory allegations, Noe has consistently denied acting unprofessionally toward Mounier or others, and other members of the city council have rallied to Noe’s defense.

“I’m 100 percent behind him and what he’s done for the city and will do for the city,” said Aurora Councilman At-large Brad Pierce.

The city paid a mediator $1,370 to work with Noe and the city council on issues, according to city spokeswoman Kim Stuart.

PANHANDLING

The busy exit off northbound Interstate 225 as it turns onto Parker Road has been considered a panhandler’s oasis for decades, and the city of Aurora annexed the off-ramp in 2015 as a way to deal with what some council members see as a public safety issue.

For nearly two years, Aurora city officials have been working to annex the off-ramp with its proponents arguing it will make the intersection less confusing and safer.

The intersection is in Arapahoe County’s jurisdiction, and the Colorado Department of Transportation off-ramp facility is within an easement granted to the state by the federal government. None of these entities prohibit panhandling, and Aurora does.

Critics say annexing the off-ramp will not be worthwhile and that panhandlers will find creative ways to get around the city’s panhandling ban.

Aurora City Council also made revisions to its longstanding panhandling ordinance in 2015 following successful challenges to similar panhandling laws across Colorado.

The slate of changes included removing Colfax Avenue-specific language from the ordinance so that it can be applicable citywide, and repealing language that refers to “loitering” as a crime.

The revised ordinance also now declares that “acts authorized as an exercise of one’s constitutional right to picket or legally protest” will not constitute obstruction.

The Aurora ordinance was also revised to prevent “aggressive begging,” which is defined in city documents as begging with “the intent of intimidating another person into giving money, goods or alms.”