Basalt chamber, former president at odds over control of Facebook group, severance
The Aspen Times
The Basalt Area Chamber of Commerce is having a disagreement with its former president and CEO over her severance package and control of a Facebook group site used to promote the town.
The chamber contends Robin Waters didn’t hand over the keys to the Basalt Community Page when she parted ways with the organization in February.
Waters said she started the site on her own with little interest in it by the chamber’s board of directors. She considers it in the public domain.
“It’s not owned by the chamber. It’s not owned by me. I happen to be the person who started it,” she said.
Waters is the exclusive administrator. She has the power to delete comments deemed inappropriate or ban users — both of which she has been loath to do.
The Basalt Community Page is usually a forum where information on events, business offerings and news is shared. Like the letters to the editors of local newspapers, tempers sometimes flare on the site, such as during Basalt’s town council election and debates on the controversial Pan and Fork property.
The executive committee of the chamber’s board of directors said in a statement to The Aspen Times that the Facebook page remains an “unresolved issue.”
It was set up as a communication tool for chamber members to promote their businesses, for the chamber to promote events and programs and “to provide positive visibility for Basalt as a community,” their statement said.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the Basalt Community Page is an asset of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce,” according to the executive committee. “Since the day the page went live, over two years ago, Robin as President/CEO of the chamber reported on the establishment, development, management and performance of the Basalt Community Facebook Page as an accomplishment of the chamber to its board, its membership base and to the staff and council members of the Town of Basalt.”
The executive committee includes chairman Charles Spickert and board members R.J. Gallagher, Cathy Markle, Amanda Wagner and Phillip Ring.
The committee provided a report that Waters sent to the Basalt town government in December 2014 that talked about development of the Facebook group site to help promote chamber initiatives. It also supplied minutes from a chamber board meeting in December 2014 where Waters reported on the “chamber’s Basalt CO Community Page” activity.
Waters countered that there was so little interest among chamber board members about the group that she set it up through her own Facebook profile and tended to it when she was off the clock. She took the initiative to positively promote Basalt, including the chamber, via the site, she said.
Waters noted that the chamber controls two different Facebook pages.
Waters was hired to run the chamber in August 2014. She was widely acclaimed for being a positive voice and dedicated proponent of the town. Membership grew from 383 when she started to more than 500 in January 2017. The chamber’s bank account also increased by more than $200,000 over that period.
Something went south at the start of this year. Waters went on leave in January, but she said everyone operated on the assumption she was returning after a breather.
As of early February, Waters’ voicemail at the chamber said she was “on leave” and would be returning. Her message was removed later that month from the chamber phone system.
“While I was away, it changed,” she said of the plan. “It was their choice, the way it played out.”
She said she would have preferred to help with the transition and tended to some chamber programs before departing.
Spickert said Wednesday he wouldn’t discuss the parting of ways with Waters. The executive committee reinforced that position in its statement Thursday.
“As a board, it is our position to practice discretion with all previous and current HR matters,” the statement said. “There is no useful purpose in publicly dredging and publishing the details of Robin’s departure from the chamber. She deserves recognition for her accomplishments and growth of the Chamber during her leadership.”
The committee said Waters was paid through March 17. Her final check included severance pay, the board said.
Waters, like the board, didn’t want to get into the details of her departure. However, she said she didn’t agree with the severance settlement offered by the chamber.
“There are still contractual loose ends and I hope they get resolved with integrity and appreciation for an employee’s hard work,” Waters said.
It’s unclear how the dispute is going to get resolved. Spickert said Waters has been asked to turn over administrative control of the Facebook page.
“She’s not responding,” he said.
In its statement, the executive committee said, “It is the Chamber’s intention to proceed in an appropriate manner to resolve this unresolved issue immediately.”
Waters said she is uncertain why the chamber wants control of a Facebook group that board members were previously uninterested in.
“I don’t think there’s anything to resolve,” she said.
Despite the dispute, Waters said she wishes all the best to the chamber and new executive director Kris Mattera, who started Wednesday.
“A strong and dedicated Chamber of Commerce is important to the overall well-being of our community,” she said.
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