Colorado Mountain College board considers possible conflicts of interest
October 10, 2013
Candidate story delayed
A story originally scheduled for today about Jay Rickstrew’s candidacy for the only contested seat on the Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees will appear in Friday’s Post Independent instead.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — When the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) board of trustees meets today in Glenwood Springs, one topic of discussion will be the need for tighter policies concerning potential conflicts of interest on the part of the trustees, according to three of the trustees.
At the board meetings in August and September, the board agreed that it needs to rewrite its conflict-of-interest policy, in the wake of revelations that the board chair, Glenn Davis, might have violated the current policy during his negotiations with former CMC President Stan Jensen, who resigned in December 2012 and walked away with a $500,000 severance payment.
The board adopted a formal resolution calling for rewriting the policy at its September meeting.
Jensen’s severance deal has caused considerable concern among some college faculty and staff as well as among college district taxpayers. CMC’s district covers 11 campuses over six counties in the central Colorado Rocky Mountains.
“Perhaps, in this case, it was probably an oversight on my part that I didn’t recuse myself.”
Board chair, Colorado Mountain College (CMC) board of trustees
The concerns about the severance deal have focused on the dollar amount. A special attorney hired by the trustees to guide the severance negotiations said Jensen would have been eligible for perhaps a $150,000 severance agreement under normal circumstances. Trustees have refused to specify why the higher severance package was granted.
At the board’s Aug. 1 meeting, according to the meeting minutes, Trustee Ken Brenner of Steamboat Springs brought up a potential conflict of interest on the part of Davis. Brenner noted that Davis never informed the rest of the board that Jensen had, on two different occasions, taken out loans from Alpine Bank to buy homes worth more than $500,000 each, or that one of the loans apparently was still outstanding at the time of the severance talks.
Davis is a regional president for Alpine Bank, overseeing branches in Eagle County. Alpine Bank provides financial services for the college district, although the trustees reportedly have nothing to do with decisions about contracts with financial institutions, thereby avoiding an appearance of a conflict in that regard.
Jensen and his wife, Teresa, borrowed an undisclosed amount of money from Alpine Bank in Rifle in July 2008, to buy a home in Castle Valley Ranch in New Castle valued at $580,000, according to records on file with the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s office.
Nearly four years later, in May 2012, the Jensens sold that home to Paul and Elizabeth Stoffel, for a price of $420,000, according to county records.
At roughly the same time, the Jensens bought a 30-acre property with a house and outbuildings at 6000 County Road 115, in the Simmons Exemption subdivision near CMC, for a price of $565,000, again borrowing money from Alpine Bank in Rifle, according to county records.
According to the minutes of the Aug. 1 meeting, Davis denied that he had a conflict of interest, though he admitted that “it may have been best to formally disclose his relationship with Alpine Bank” before undertaking the role of sole liaison between Jensen and the board of trustees.
Speaking during a telephone interview on Tuesday, Davis reiterated that he did not believe he had a conflict of interest, noting that he had asked that very question of his fellow trustees “and there was no response to that.”
Regarding his knowledge of Jensen’s home loans from Alpine Bank, Davis said, “I’m not in a position to divulge financial information.” Acknowledging that the information can be obtained from public records, he continued, “I can’t be the one to divulge it.”
He also differed with Trustee Brenner’s “characterization” of the discussion at the Aug. 1 meeting, stating, “What I said was that I didn’t know if I was in a position to disclose that,” meaning Jensen’s loans, prior to the negotiations with Jensen.
Looking back, Davis said on Tuesday, “Perhaps, in this case, it was probably an oversight on my part that I didn’t recuse myself” from negotiations with Jensen and the votes to accept Jensen’s resignation and give him the $500,000 severance.
Davis also said he asked Trustee Mary Ellen Denomy, whom he said was then the treasurer for the board, “if she would be the one to tend to the … severance agreement.”
Denomy declined, Davis said, and the board left it up to him to be the liaison between the trustees and Jensen.
Denomy has denied that she was the treasurer during the period in question, and Brenner has backed her up.
“From August 2012 on, I was treasurer,” Brenner said by telephone on Tuesday evening. “And no, I was never contacted by Glenn about taking care of the negotiations with Stan.”
Although the CMC board has not had a policy of recording their open meetings, preferring to have a secretary take written minutes, on Tuesday Davis said, “I’ve got a feeling that may change, maybe tomorrow.”