Citizens, trustees rally to defense of Silt town staff
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
SILT, Colorado – The harsh criticism leveled at certain members of the town staff and the board of trustees here recently continues to spawn reverberations.
Several citizens appeared at the March 8 Board of Trustees meeting to sing the praises of the Town Hall staff.
Administrator Betsy Suerth and town attorney Eugene Duran both were roundly criticized during a speech by local resident Carl McWilliams at the Feb. 22 board meeting.
Duran reportedly is the subject of a complaint before the Colorado Supreme Court, filed by McWilliams.
Both Suerth and Duran were defended by citizens and by trustees.
“They are all doing a fine job,” said Brit McLin, fire chief of the Burning Mountains Fire Protection District and a resident of Silt, who noted that the town has not always had good help at Town Hall.
“There is a tangible difference,” he said, in the cheerful and helpful atmosphere that now greets residents doing business at Town Hall.
“My opinion is that the members of the Board of Trustees do not truly recognize the quality of the staff that they have,” McLin declared.
His sentiments were echoed by longtime local real estate broker Glenn Ault, who told the board, “Town staff, to me, has been the best in the world. … They’re doing their job, and they’re doing it well. If somebody doesn’t like what’s going on, they need to speak up to the town board, [but not] to run other people down.”
The two were reacting to McWilliams’ speech, in which he warned that Silt is facing “a town charter crisis” that he blamed in large part on what he termed the “shadow town government” being run by Suerth and some of the town trustees.
He was especially critical of a 2008 ballot question, and a related ordinance, that delegated hiring and firing power to Suerth over the positions of town clerk, municipal judge and chief of police. McWilliams laid the blame for those new laws at Duran’s feet.
Trustee Nicky Leigh, however, reading from a prepared statement on March 8, countered that the impetus for the ballot question and ordinance came from the town attorney prior to Duran.
“Attorney Duran … had nothing to do with these two items,” Leigh said.
She said Mayor Dave Moore and former town administrator Rick Aluise were the most responsible for hiring that earlier town attorney, and that any complaints about the ballot question and the related ordinance should be directed toward them.
Trustee Meredith Robinson, who is running for mayor against Moore, added that the advice to place personnel matters in Suerth’s hands also came from administrative consultant Gary Suiter and the town’s insurance carrier, CIRSA (Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency), which advised the town board that it should “get out of the personnel matters” as a matter of legal liability.
Robinson also questioned McWilliams’ criticism of Suerth’s handling of the town’s finances, noting that while Suerth gets the budgetary process rolling every year, it is the Board of Trustees that makes the decisions about what to spend and how.
“It is the board’s budget,” she said flatly.
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