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Entire City Council resigns in protest of Colorado corruption scandal

FLORENCE, Colo. (KRDO) -- The entire Florence City Council resigned leaving the mayor as the only elected official in the Fremont County city.

Three Florence City Council members submitted their resignation overnight amid a growing corruption scandal. The remaining three submitted theirs throughout Tuesday.

Councilwoman Melissa Hardy, Councilman Brian Allen, Councilwoman Kristal Wood, Councilman Anthony Esquibel, Councilman Mike Vendetti, and Councilman Allen Knisley all resigned.

These resignations come after Monday night's council meeting where a citizen called for the Florence Mayor's resignation. During the meeting, Mayor Paul Villagrana said he won't resign because 500 people elected him in.

The six resigned members all tell 13 Investigates they quit their jobs because they did everything they could to find the truth and address corruption and were rejected.

Hardy and Allen have been pushing for answers and taking action to address issues exposed by 13 Investigates.

Those issues uncovered include a pattern of abuse by former City Manager Mike Patterson that spanned several years, former and current city employees saying they were forced to take off COVID-19 sick time when they weren't ill, and missing taxpayer money.

"The stress I have endured in the last 6 months has begun to take a toll on my health and my ability to be the kind of wife and mother my family deserves. I believe that I have worked diligently to find the truth and pursue every avenue I could towards fixing what has gone so terribly wrong in the City of Florence. At this point, under the scope of my authority, I do not believe I am able to be of further assistance to the citizens. The council can only give so much direction and if it goes unfulfilled there is little recourse. We can try to set the example and expectation of the change we are seeking but that too can be rejected. We are also subject to making decisions with the information that we are provided, whether it is accurate and complete or not. I hold out hope that things will continue to improve and wish everyone that continues to move toward that goal the best. I was so proud to be elected for this job last fall and it has been an honor serving as a representative for the community. I am truly sorry to anyone that feels I have let them down by this choice but I can no longer serve on the Florence City council," Melissa Hardy told 13 Investigates.

Hardy led the council to fire its city attorney earlier this month. She is also heard in executive session tapes pressing for the truth and action on alleged wrongdoing in the city.

Brian Allen called for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look into the city's missing taxpayer money and other money woes in an open meeting a few weeks ago. The Florence city management did not follow his direction and only asked the CBI to investigate a 2019 severance package of the former Florence police chief.

Allen told 13 Investigates he is working on a public statement about his resignation.

Kristal Wood shared a copy of the resignation letter she sent Florence's interim city manager Tuesday morning.

Councilman Mike Vendetti also sent 13 Investigates a copy of his own resignation letter. The now former Florence city council member says he personally handed in his letter to the interim city manager Tuesday afternoon.

Tom Piltingsrud Interim City Manager City of Florence,

It is with the deepest regrets that I resign from the Florence city council. I thought we might have been back on track, pulling the city together, but with the mass resignation of fellow city council members and the lack of a plan to remove the cancer that is destroying our town, I can no longer be a part of this organization.

Respectfully,

Mike Vendetti

Resignation letter for former Florence City Councilman Mike Vendetti

The fifth to inform 13 Investigates of their resignation, Councilman Allen Knisley, sent a picture of his hand written letter Tuesday afternoon.

With six out of seven council members now gone, the city can effectively no longer function. Now, they may not be able to pay their bills because there is only one elected official in the city who remains.

The current city manager tells 13 Investigates the city has requested guidance from the City Attorney.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Previous coverage by 13 Investigates on the growing corruption scandal in Florence:

13 Investigates: Florence leaders directed staff to use fraudulent COVID sick time

Florence Manager says failure to report missing city money not police chief’s fault

Secret tapes reveal Florence Police Chief knew of sex scandal years before taking action

13 Investigates: Florence City Staff paid $95k in interest-free loans on taxpayers' dime, records show

Florence City Council fires attorney, calls in CBI for missing money found by 13 Investigates

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Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is the Assistant News Director for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.

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