2010-10-24 / News

Is it a witch hunt? FBI seizes city manager's computer

City Council narrowly votes - 'Innocent until proven guilty' 4-3
BY JEANNE MARCELLO STAFF REPORTER

MONTROSE - Over the past year, Montrose City Manager Frank Crosby has appeared to be the target of a witch hunt. And while Crosby pled guilty to inappropriate use of city property earlier this year (later reported as viewing porn on a city computer); he survived due to a combination of his popularity in the City of Montrose and his reputation as a city manager who gets things done.

On Monday, Oct. 18, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seized Crosby's office computer.

Montrose City Attorney Otis Stout told the council, “They are not talking about why they seized it. When they intend to return it, I don't know.”

Mayor Clint Diffin said he had also talked with the FBI and they would not provide any details.

Earlier in the meeting, the council had conducted Crosby's quarterly computeruse review; which had been put in place as part of his punishment for inappropriate use of city property earlier in year.

A review of Crosby's internet cookies showed nothing objectionable.

During the review, Councilman Frank DeForke asked Crosby, “Do you feel you've complied?”

Crosby responded, “Yes. Although, I sometimes use self-deprecating humor.” Crosby also asked the council if they expected someone to be “so sanitized, sterilized, and stilted like a robot, without passion.”

“Life is either a comedy or a tragedy. I prefer to laugh,” Crosby told the council.

DeForke referenced an email Crosby sent to Building Inspector Dennis Miller on Sept. 15, quoting Crosby as saying, “I really need to start drinking more! Like drinking arsenic and cyanide by the gallons or liters to solve all my tiny-little pestering problems. I hope you smiled, sir.”

Crosby responded, “Both that official and I were sharing a host of difficult issues to resolve.”

Attorney Stout said he had been contacted by Miller, who told the attorney that he was not offended by Crosby's comments.

Councilwoman Sue Head expressed concern asking, “How are people finding out so fast?” She wanted to know how a member of the public [Nancy Obershaw] knew to ask for the email under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). “How did they know he sent an email to Dennis Miller?” She suspected someone was acting as an informant.

Mayor Clint Diffin jumped in saying, “It doesn't matter it's a FOIAable document.”

Councilman Ray Foust stated, “We have been battling this out for months. I know that Dennis was thinking along the same lines [as Frank].” Foust believes that Crosby was attempting to “relieve some stress with a bit of humor.”

Then DeForke complained vehemently about Crosby's use of the phrase “computer geek” calling it an offensive term. Several council members, as well as persons in the audience laughed.

Brown responded, “That's not offensive.”

Councilman Paul Wixon told DeForke, “You're digging. Name one person who is offended [by the term computer geek].” DeForke had no answer.

Brown said the issue is “harassment.” “Has Heather [the city's computer technology contractor] complained that this is offensive? Has Dennis?”

Stout responded, saying Dennis was not offended, he went out of his way to tell the city attorney that he was not offended. Heather was not offended either.

Brown concluded, “Then I say it's a nonissue. I make a motion we put this issue to rest and address it in another quarter.” The majority of the council agreed, with DeForke voting, “no”.

Just before the meeting came to a close, Bigelow said, “I move to terminate Crosby's contract without cause.”

Councilwoman Head responded, “No reason?”

Bigelow said, “Don't have to have a reason.”

Stout told the council what Crosby would be entitled to if they choose dismiss Crosby. He referred to both the City Charter and to Crosby's contract, which the council did not have in front of them at the time.

Wixson said, “I'd like to review those documents.” Minutes later, both the City Charter and Crosby's contract were in front of the council.

Stout pointed out that under the City Charter, they “must state a reason” for dismissal. However, Crosby's contract states he could be dismissed for no reason. Stout continued to point out the Charter requires 30 days notice; while the contract says they don't have to give him 30 days notice. He would have the right to appeal. “I suggest we follow our Charter,” Stout advised.

When the question was called, a roll call vote was required. Bigelow and DeForke voted “Yes.” Brown and Foust voted “No.” When Councilwoman Head voted “Yes,” there was tension in the room as Mayor Clint Diffin has a history of voting against Crosby. However, Mayor Diffin voted, “No” not to dimiss, citing that despite the FBI investigation, in this country we are innocent until proven guilty.

“The truth will keep me free,” Crosby told the Citizen after the meeting.

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