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Conflicting stories emerge regarding Florence’s fired city manager

FLORENCE, Colo. (KRDO) -- Florence citizens continue to demand answers about what government officials in the city knew about alleged sexual harassment of female employees by the former city manager at city hall.

In November, former Florence city manager Mike Patterson was charged with stalking, unlawful sexual contact, and providing alcohol to a minor. All of Patterson's charges are related to his alleged behavior and treatment of the women who worked for him at city hall, according to police records. Court records also show that a former city clerk successfully sued the City of Florence regarding frequent sexual harassment involving Patterson.

"You cannot just ignore this issue and think it will go away. When will we get the answers to these past questions?" Florence resident Laurie Aves read from a letter to the city council. "Accountability must be taken by the city. Those that allowed this to happen so we can put the processes in place so it cannot happen again."

Florence City Councilman Allen Knisley said during Monday night's council meeting that his call for an investigation into former city manager Mike Patterson more than a year ago "fell on deaf ears."

"Little over a year ago, I asked for a two-person committee to investigate Mike Patterson. I was denied," Knisley said during Monday night's city council meeting.

Knisley said he took his concerns to then-Mayor Dick Upton. Upton denies Knisley's claim.

"I have no recollection that ever happened," Upton told 13 Investigates over the phone.

Upton tells 13 Investigates he first learned of Patterson's alleged sexual misconduct at city hall at the city council meeting where they terminated the former city manager in August.

Councilman Mike Vendetti raised the issue with Knisley's statements saying concerns about Patterson should have been discussed with the entire council.

"You talked to two people about investigating Mike Patterson. We are a council we have seven people," Vendetti said.

"No, I did not. I said I asked the mayor for a two-person committee to be established for the investigative purposes of Mike Patterson," Knisley explained.

"Well, you should have talked to the entire council," Vendetti responded.

"That was the mayor's duty. Whatever mayor knows, he's supposed to share with his council. That was the mayor's duty. That is the pecking order," Knisley explained.

"Well, I disagree. We are a council, you should have brought it before council," Vendetti said.

"I actually brought it to you, Mike," Knisley responded.

"Brought it to me?" Vendetti asked.

"I did. I actually did. I told you when I was going down to talk to the mayor and what I was going to request of him and it fell on deaf ears," Knisley responded.

Knisley also proposed two-council member oversight committees for city agencies during the meeting.

"There have been investigations that have happened that we have only heard rumors of that stop with the city manager or chief of police. We don't even know what's happened. All we know is what they tell us and it's time for the end of that," Knisley said.

Council members have previously told 13 Investigates they've been advised by the city attorney to not comment on Patterson's case.

Patterson's defense team raised concerns in court on Monday that the Fremont County District Attorney's Office may need to recuse itself from the case due to a conflict of interest. The issue is expected to be discussed at Patterson's next hearing in February.

If you have a story you want our team to look into, email us at 13Investigates@krdo.com.

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.

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