Denver City Council Fires Its Executive Director

Leon Mason was executive director of Denver City Council for two and a half years.
Leon Mason was executive director of Denver City Council for two and a half years. City and County of Denver
On Monday, September 9, Denver City Council voted 11 to 2 to fire executive director Leon Mason, who was hired in March 2017. The move to terminate Mason's contract was the latest in a months-long shakeup of the legislative body.

Mason had been on unpaid leave since August 9, and his termination is effective immediately. Councilmembers Kevin Flynn and Chris Herndon were the lone "no" votes.

The executive director oversees six legislative services staff who "provide research, administrative, communications, and technical support for Council and Committee meetings and other Council-wide projects and working groups," according to a press release issued when Mason was hired; helps council with budgeting and personnel functions; and serves on the team that negotiates contracts for police officers, firefighters and sheriff deputies.

It's still unclear why Mason was fired. Prior to the vote, members spoke with a lawyer from the Denver City Attorney's Office in a private session, returned to the council meeting and moved through a number of votes, including Mason's termination.

Councilmembers who spoke with Westword after the meeting offered few specifics. Council president Jolon Clark said the body makes personnel changes on an "ongoing basis." Councilmembers Jamie Torres and Stacie Gilmore declined to comment for this story, and Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca said she doesn't "think there was anything catalytic or pivotal" that led to Mason's firing.

Lisa Calderón, CdeBaca's chief of staff, says Mason's office hasn't been helpful enough in onboarding new staff. "We were very vocal about those challenges," Calderón says, noting that it took three weeks for CdeBaca's office to open, and that she and other council aides still haven't received an orientation.

"It didn’t seem like that role reports to the councilmembers. It was like they reported to the person in that role," Calderón adds.

Flynn declined to elaborate on the decision, saying he wanted to maintain confidentiality for what he referred to as a personnel matter. "My vote meant that I did not want to terminate his employment," he added.

Mason was hired when Albus Brooks was president of the council. (Brooks lost his District 9 seat in a runoff against CdeBaca in June.) Prior to working for the City of Denver, Mason was the director of Building, Housing and Planning in Lorain, Ohio, and has worked in Congress.

Denver City Council has undergone a number of massive changes in recent months. Three incumbents were knocked out of their seats in runoffs, and new members have pushed back against the Michael Hancock administration, as evidenced by the August 5 vote against renewing halfway house contracts with two private prison companies.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.