Frank Lockwood has given a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday to the Durango Area Tourism Office board of directors to enter mediation to resolve his status with the organization after he was suspended with pay Dec. 18 as the group’s executive director.
“I’ve been trying to work out something with the board to depart on amicable grounds, but we haven’t come to satisfactory agreement,” he said.
Lockwood said he has not come to an agreement on a severance package with the board.
Lockwood said his contract requires mediation to address disputes, and if mediation fails, to move to binding arbitration.
Carrie Whitley, chairwoman of DATO’s board of directors, said DATO has an attorney in discussions with Lockwood, but she declined to comment further until discussions with Lockwood are complete. She estimated talks would be final in a couple of days.
Lockwood’s dispute comes as DATO announced this week it is bringing in Barbara Bowman as interim executive director to lead the group.
Whitley said Bowman will bring more than 20 years of experience working in tourism and tourism marketing. Bowman, who recently retired as director of Visit Grand Junction, will begin work Monday.
If DATO does not agree to mediation by 5 p.m. Friday, Lockwood said he will hire an attorney to sue the board for breach of contract.
Lockwood said he received his paycheck for the first two weeks of January, but the paycheck was later reversed and the money was pulled from his account.
In January, he said the board offered him the option of resigning or to be fired for cause.
Lockwood’s contract with DATO requires he be fired for cause.
He said several reasons were given by the board for firing him for cause and all were groundless. Reasons the board gave Lockwood for terminating his contract included:
His presentation to the Durango City Council in November objecting to diverting $475,000 from the lodgers tax to the general fund. Lockwood said the board told him it issued a directive to “tread lightly” on the issue, but he said no directive was issued.His effort to direct news media coverage of the November meeting. Lockwood said he did not lead news media to cover the meeting. City Council meetings are routinely covered by The Durango Herald.His contacting of city officials after his suspension in violation of a suspension agreement. Lockwood said he has no suspension agreement with the DATO board.His failure get a properly adopted budget approved. Lockwood said minutes show a proper budget has been approved.His failure to promptly inform the board about the city’s intention to issue a request for proposal to bid out tourism marketing. Lockwood said he issued a memorandum to board members about the city’s intent to issue the RFP after he had adequate information about the issue.“Basically, I don’t think they have any grounds to fire me,” he said.