The retirement party for the city’s top three cops prompted Littleton City Council to discuss discretionary budgets April 2, despite Mayor Debbie Brinkman calling it an “absolute waste of our time and a waste of our energy.”
Councilor Peggy Cole asked for the discussion upon learning the party for outgoing Chief Heather Coogan and division chiefs Bob Brandt and Bill Christensen — held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Highlands Ranch — cost upward of $3,500.
“This is nothing about the people that were honored, but I was not expecting so much money to be spent,” said Cole, particularly when the city is drawing on its reserves to cover expenses.
Councilor Bruce Beckman asked for a written policy guiding the use of such funds, and City Manager Michael Penny said he’d handle it administratively.
Asked the next day who approved the spending for the retirement party, Penny replied, “There was no ‘approval,’ but it was the chief’s decision.”
Beckman’s official party celebrating his retirement from the Littleton Police Department in June 2011 consisted of punch and cookies in the station, as was tradition. He said there were standards about such expenditures when he was there.
“Somewhere that went awry in this event,” he said.
Still, Beckman said council shouldn’t get too much in the weeds of the budget, and that departments should be able to police themselves.
“If not, they’re going to end up on this dais, and they don’t want that,” he said. “We should spend our time talking about more important things.”
Councilor Jim Taylor said the department heads need some flexibility to deal with such unanticipated expenses.
“They’ve got to have some leeway in order to spend funds we’ve already said it’s OK to spend,” he said.
Councilor Jerry Valdes brought up council’s recent decision to kick in $25,000 to upgrade Euclid Middle School’s playground, even though the school district hadn’t asked for it.
“I think we need to look in the mirror here, folks,” he said. “This is other people’s money.”
Mayor Debbie Brinkman said the three officers were so popular and well-loved that she didn’t think the citizens would begrudge them a nice farewell. She noted the presence of about 200 people at the party, including elected officials from other cities.
“It showed well for Littleton to show that level of appreciation,” she said.