After months of searching for the right city manager candidate, Durango City Council unanimously decided Friday to offer the position to Jose Madrigal of Texas.
Madrigal’s main competition in the last stage of the hiring process was interim City Manager Amber Blake, who has served in the position for 10 months.
This week, as councilors approached their final decision, they learned of last-minute concerns about Madrigal’s transparency on his application and an anonymous allegation against Blake. After two closed-door sessions, they voted to hire Madrigal – who seems ready to accept their offer.
“I am thrilled about the council’s action tonight,” Madrigal wrote to The Durango Herald after the vote. “My family is excited about the move to Durango. We are looking forward to being a part of your beautiful community, and I am excited to take on new challenges with the city of Durango.”
Madrigal is interim waste services director in Irving, Texas, and an executive management consultant for several municipal governments. He has 18 years of experience in municipal government, 14 of which have been at the executive level.
During the hiring process, Madrigal emphasized his city management experience, strategic planning background and track record of rebuilding trust and financial transparency.
His qualifications matched council’s priorities, which centered around transparency, expert financial management skills, wide-ranging expertise in city management and rebuilding trust with the community.
But a 2017 lawsuit, undisclosed on Madrigal’s application and previously reported by the Herald, raised flags for some councilors.
In McKinney, Texas, Madrigal signed off on the termination of a firefighter who used city property for a photo shoot for a political action committee. The employee sued, filing a free speech retaliation claim. The termination was upheld by the court, and the case ended in a settlement.
While Madrigal disclosed a resolved, discrimination-related employee complaint, he did not include the lawsuit in his application materials.
“I have no concerns about his actions. I’m concerned about his transparency,” Mayor Dean Brookie said.
Madrigal joined the meeting to answer council’s questions. He said a candidate questionnaire asked about discrimination, which did not apply to the lawsuit. The questionnaire also asked candidates if they had ever sued an employer, which also did not apply to the lawsuit, he said.
“Transparency is a big thing about who I am, making sure that I’m open and honest with every conversation that I have,” Madrigal said. “I appreciate the ability to lay out what the facts of that situation were.”
Councilors accepted his answer and later reiterated their confidence in him as the right choice for Durango.
“I firmly believe that you (Jose) are exceptionally qualified for this position, and I look forward to welcoming you to our community,” said Councilor Barbara Noseworthy. “The combination of Amber with Jose creates the building of a dynamite team.”
They also thanked Blake for her leadership during the coronavirus pandemic and in addressing the city’s financial issues.
“She really deserves the credit for that,” said Councilor Chris Bettin. “In short, I think she’s been an exceptional interim city manager.”