RIO COMMUNITIES — Ten weeks after being placed on paid administrative leave, the Rio Communities City Council unanimously voted last week to terminate Leisa Haynes from the city manager’s position.
Haynes was placed on leave by Rio Communities Mayor Pro Tem Peggy Gutjahr on Jan. 16. Gutjahr said she couldn’t comment on personnel issues when asked by the News-Bulletin about why the now-former manager was fired.
While Gutjahr couldn’t comment, Haynes was ready to tell her side of the story after the council voted.
“(I was told I was put on administrative leave) because I went to lunch with the solid waste company that was in consideration for the city,” Haynes said. “I kind of knew this was coming because I figured they (the council) wanted to run the city.”
When asked if she now regrets meeting with the representatives of Universal Waste Systems for lunch, Haynes said she didn’t, explaining it was a “friendly lunch,” to get to know one another. She said the conversation that day didn’t include the potential contract, only talking about “horses and cars and kids. We were just getting to know each other better.”
Haynes, who was hired as the city manager in March 2019, said she is proud of the work she did while in Rio Communities, and has made several good friends.
“I have loved it here, and I really appreciate the opportunity to help,” she said. “I really didn’t have the time to do a lot because they cut me off after only 10 months, which I don’t think is enough time to prove yourself.”
Haynes said she has been able to connect with several potential businesses thinking of building in Rio Communities over the last several months, but isn’t sure what will become of these projects now.
She isn’t sure what she’ll do next, saying she’s weighing her options. She said since she was placed on paid administrative leave, she’s been looking for other positions but hasn’t applied for a job.
“There aren’t a lot positions open for city manager … but there are other jobs open around here locally that I’ve been asked to apply for, but I don’t know if I want to stay in the public sector,” she said. “City councils are very hard to work for.”
While Gutjahr couldn’t specifically talk about Haynes, she did say the council will “regroup” and start talking about what they want to do next.
During the meeting last week, Gutjahr mentioned the possibility of an administrator verses a city manager.
“Currently, our ordinances, which we’re in the process of cleaning up because they’re conflicting,” Gutjahr said. “We’re going to go through that and then make a decision. The council will be having the conversation, which we’ve had before. There’s a move to revisit that.
“It doesn’t mean that we won’t go with a city manager, or that we’re against it.”
The difference between the two positions is that a manager takes care of everything in the city on a day-to-day basis and implements the council’s vision; whereas the council’s only role is to hire a city manager.
An administrator also handles day-to-day city business, but the council and mayor “have a little more involvement,” such as hiring employees.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.