Silt election colored by attacks on town staff
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
SILT, Colorado -As voters decide who will be in charge of municipal affairs for the next four years, one man’s attacks against the town administrator and attorney are shaping up as a backdrop to the election.
The electorate here is in the midst of a mail-only election to fill three open seats on the Board of Trustees and the mayor’s position. Ballots are due in Town Hall by 7 p.m. on April 6.
Carl McWilliams, who appeared before the Board of Trustees on Feb. 22 of this year and accused administrator Betsy Suerth and attorney Gene Duran of running Silt through a “shadow government,” said this week that he has filed formal complaints against the two with local and state authorities.
According to McWilliams, he has filed two complaints against Duran with the state Supreme Court, as well as calling on 9th Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson to look into Suerth’s and Duran’s official conduct.
McWilliams maintains that Duran engineered a change in the town’s governance policies, to take personnel oversight away from the Board of Trustees and place it in the hands of Suerth, which McWilliams maintains is a violation of the town’s charter.
The change was accomplished through enactment of two ordinances in 2008, linked to a voter-approved charter amendment that year, which gives the administrator hiring and firing powers over the town clerk, police chief and municipal judge.
McWilliams also accuses Duran of forcing the Board of Trustees to change Duran’s employment status, giving approval for a personnel policy under which Duran “goes from an hourly-basis employee … to a six-figure, full-time town attorney.”
An official with the Colorado Supreme Court, Cynthia Mares, declined to confirm or deny that any complaints from McWilliams have been filed, saying that “requests for investigation are confidential at the intake stage. A matter becomes public when a civil complaint is filed by our office with the Presiding Disciplinary Judge.”
Beeson did not respond to requests for comment on his office’s response to McWilliams’ complaints.
Duran, who said he has not responded to McWilliams’ accusations, told the Post Independent on Tuesday, “I think that, for someone like him, getting a response empowers him. He wants somebody to acknowledge his existence.”
He denied that he has “breached any fiduciary obligation” to the town, and has repeatedly said he did not draft the charter amendment in 2008, as alleged by McWilliams, explaining this week that the amendment and two related ordinances were drafted by former town attorney Cynthia Tester.
Regarding McWilliams’ tactics, Duran said, “He’s trying to do maximum damage with the least amount of factual basis [and] a lot of really malicious gossip.”
McWilliams is not part of a slate of candidates seeking election to the Board of Trustees, known as Save Our Silt, which is made up of incumbent Mayor Dave Moore and candidates Rick Aluise, Bryan Fleming and Paul Taylor.
But part of the SOS campaign is the idea of eliminating the job of the town attorney, as well as the building and planning department, and having the work of those departments contracted out. Some in the SOS slate also have called for the 2008 charter amendment to be reversed, and the relevant ordinances repealed.
An opposing slate of candidates – incumbent trustee Bobby Hays, Mark Rinehart, Bob Shiveley and incumbent trustee Meredith Robinson, who is running for mayor – has been unofficially dubbed “Sensible Solutions for Silt.” This slate has not aligned itself with calls for the elimination of positions or repeal of the targeted laws.
Moore emphasized this week that the SOS slate is interested in balancing the town’s budget, which this year is $275,000 in the red, rather than specifically in eliminating the positions.
But, he admitted, “If that is what is required [in order to balance the budget], then I am in favor of eliminating those positions.”
Moore also confirmed that he was opposed to the 2008 charter amendment, and hopes to see the town restore personnel oversight to the mayor’s office, where it rested prior to the amendment.
He is particularly interested in getting back the power to appoint the municipal judge, explaining that “the judge always had been appointed by the mayor” prior to 2008.
As for McWilliams, Moore called him “a very intelligent, savvy, honest, concerned citizen” who is exercising his legal right to voice his concerns about the government.
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