Silt man warns trustees of ‘town charter crisis’ |

Silt man warns trustees of ‘town charter crisis’

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

SILT, Colorado – Local resident Carl McWilliams this week declared that the town is in “a town charter crisis,” in which “the town is currently operating illegally and unconstitutionally” as a consequence of recently passed laws.

McWilliams, reading from a five-page, single-spaced prepared text at the Feb. 22 trustees meeting, also strongly criticized town attorney Eugene Duran and town administrator Betsy Suerth for running what McWilliams called a “shadow town government” created by some of the town’s trustees.

The board of trustees, however, was specifically prevented by Mayor Dave Moore from responding to McWilliams’ charges, as were Duran and Suerth.

Moore declared that McWilliams had gotten the board’s approval to speak for up to 30 minutes, without interruption. The mayor overrode efforts to break into McWilliams presentation and called for a 10-minute break after McWilliams finished speaking.

McWilliams, who said he has lived in Silt for nearly two years, singled out trustees Sonny Fernandez, Bobby Hays, Nicky Leigh, Meredith Robinson and Joe Sos as guilty of “considerable blame … incompetence, negligence and professional misconduct” for, among other things, overseeing passage of an amendment to the town’s charter in 2008 and then voting for Ordinance 13 of 2008, which codified the charter amendment.

McWilliams also chastised the board for approving Ordinance 1 of 2010, which essentially confirmed the provisions of Ordinance 13-08.

He praised the mayor, however, comparing him to a Union commander in the Civil War who “held the high ground” at Gettysburg until reinforcements arrived, for the mayor’s opposition to the ordinances in question.

The charter amendment, and subsequent relevant ordinances, gives authority to administrator Betsy Suerth to, among other tasks, handle town personnel issues without resorting to the Board of Trustees for authorization.

Specifically, Suerth can appoint and dismiss the municipal judge, the town clerk, the town treasurer and the chief of police under the current town codes.

Invoking Revolutionary War personages Benjamin Franklin, the Lexington, Mass., minutemen who fired “the shot heard ’round the world” in 1775 and other military figures, McWilliams spoke into the camera recording the proceedings and intoned, “I remind you, fellow citizens … freedom is not free.”

He accused Suerth of following policies that will bankrupt the town in three years, and Duran of showing “insubordinate arrogance” toward elected officials during a heated debate at the Feb. 8 town council meeting about who has the power to appoint a municipal judge.

According to one observer, McWilliams is merely expressing “the polarization of opinions” that comes with heated political differences concerning how the town should be run.

“There’s a lot of strong feelings in Silt right now,” said local resident Mark Rinehart, a member of the town’s planning commission who was at the Feb. 22 board meeting. “The strong feelings … come from folks feeling the town’s administrator and the town attorney are not acting in the town’s best interests.”

Rinehart stressed, however, that “I certainly didn’t [feel that way].”

He said other residents had wondered about a “possible set-up between Mr. McWilliams and Mayor Moore” to ambush Duran and Suerth.

The mayor adamantly denied any such thing had occurred. He confirmed that he was opposed to the charter amendment and to the two ordinances in question, although he apparently voted for Ordinance 13-08.

“I made a mistake if I voted yes,” the mayor said on Tuesday.

McWilliams this week threatened to sue the town if it did not repeal the 2008 amendment to the town charter and all subsequently approved ordinances, and return control of the town’s finances to the mayor and the trustees, as opposed to the town administration.

McWilliams also said he had filed a formal complaint against Duran with the Colorado Supreme Court, although he declined to further discuss his complaints with a reporter.

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