Basalt councilman calls for colleague’s resignation

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle

One member of the Basalt Town Council said Monday he is prepared to get involved in the recall of another council member if she doesn’t resign.

Councilman Mark Kittle said he refuses to serve with Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle after she “lied” in an email to him and two other members of the council in July.

“She blatantly lied,” Kittle said. “She’s not answering for it.”

Kittle said he left a voice mail for Riffle on Friday and asked her to resign. He asked her to call him back by the end of Friday and that if she didn’t, he would get involved in a recall effort he said he had brewing.

Riffle issued an apology at 5 p.m. Monday to the council and Basalt citizens.

“I express to you my sincere apologies for making inexact statements in an email,” Riffle wrote. “These inexact statements have caused personal and professional distress to many individuals and I apologize for this repercussion. It is not my intention to impact or stress this social rope we are woven into together.”

Riffle’s original email was sent July 11 to lobby Kittle and council members Gary Tennenbaum and Katie Schwoerer on an issue going before the council the next day. She urged them to keep Basalt’s rules intact for where businesses that sell marijuana can be located.

In her email, Riffle claimed Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott was personally against making it easier to sell weed. She also claimed that several individuals or organizations were opposed.

Some of those claims were refuted with evidence presented to the council Sept. 27.

In the apology issued Monday, Riffle said she rescinded the statements she made about Knott’s position.

She said she also reached out to some other people that she spoke about in the prior email. She said she wasn’t trying to rebuff anyone, but that many of the accusations require a response from herself and the people or organizations she spoke about.

“Some of the accusations have been taken out of context, and it’s complex to neutralize the statements,” she said.

Kittle couldn’t be reached for comment Monday night to see if Riffle’s apology affected his position. Monday morning, he made his position clear.

“We won’t tolerate liars on Town Council,” he said.

Kittle said he’s been told that a contingent of Basalt residents plans to target at least three members of the council for recall.

Some residents were upset with the results of the April 6 election and the alleged conduct of some officials since then. In the election, incumbent Mayor Jacque Whitsitt won a close and controversial race with Basalt political veteran Rick Stevens. Schwoerer and Riffle won council seats by comfortable margins along with Auden Schendler.

There have been comments made about a recall on social media from citizens critical of the current board. Supporters respond that it is just sour grapes after the election.

Kittle is in a unique position of being an insider in the town government but also being on good terms with the government critics. When asked if Basalt has a case of bad conduct by government officials or overzealous watchdogs, Kittle said, “a little of both.”

He said former Town Manager Mike Scanlon’s resignation Aug. 19 solidified the watchdog group’s determination to pursue a recall.

A recall petition cannot be circulated until six months after the officials took office. Riffle, Whitsitt and Schwoerer were sworn in April 19, so a recall petition couldn’t be pulled until mid-October.

Recall proponents would have to collect enough signatures to force an election.

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