Dog-sledding controversy sparks shouting match in Snowmass
Ryan Summerlin April 23, 2014
SNOWMASS — The mayor of Snowmass Village refused to allow an audience member to speak about the ongoing controversy surrounding Krabloonik at a council meeting Monday, sparking another shouting match over public comment on the embattled dog-sledding operation.
The council has shifted its stance toward public comment on Krabloonik a number of times, most recently saying it would have some sort of discussion at its Monday meeting, which came after an April 15 court appearance by Dan MacEachen, the owner of the kennel who has been charged with eight misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
MacEachen pleaded not guilty, setting the stage for a three-day jury trial scheduled to start Oct. 8. Town Attorney John Dresser has repeatedly advised the Town Council not to have public discussions regarding Krabloonik while the case is pending, and the elected officials chose to heed that advice and not schedule an agenda item for their Monday meeting, Town Manager Gary Suiter said.
During public non-agenda items on Monday, Guy Courtney, the former general manager of Krabloonik who has spoken out against the kennel since resigning last fall, came forward saying he wanted to give an update on “the issues going on between the village and Krabloonik.”
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to prevent, you being on television prejudicing the jury pool that’s possible for that trial.”
Town attorney, Snowmass Village
Mayor Bill Boineau interrupted Courtney as soon as he stated his purpose, saying that the council would not be “discussing anything about the dogs.”
“I have had other folks from Krabloonik come up to me and tell me that they want to talk, and I said, ‘No, that’s not appropriate until this court case is finished,’” Boineau said. “While it’s one of those areas where I do believe there needs to be some conversation, some discussion, it’s not appropriate, at least as far as I’m concerned, given the comments from our attorney.”
Courtney asked the council to explain their reasoning, and Councilman Fred Kucker responded with, “on the advice of council.”
“Billy, can we get clarification about why it’s not in the town’s interest to take random public comments about an issues such as this?” Councilman Jason Haber said.
The forum for the discussion is now in the courts now, Dresser said, and it’s inappropriate for Courtney, who filed a complaint against MacEachen, to appear before the council. Courtney responded by saying he didn’t file a complaint. An affidavit for a search warrant, filed by an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office, identifies Courtney as one of three men interviewed by the Snowmass Village Police Department who made complaints against MacEachen.
“The advice does not need to be explained to you,” Dresser said. “It is the advice of this Town Council that they not entertain Krabloonik discussions until this court case is completed.”
“So between now and the court case being over … are you telling me that Snowmass Village council has no authority, no business whatsoever, in trying to protect the dogs at Krabloonik, which continue to get abused?” Courtney said.
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to prevent, you being on television prejudicing the jury pool that’s possible for that trial. They’re not going to accept anything further,” Dresser said.
Courtney responded by saying the trial likely will be moved to another district anyway, to which Boineau said, “We don’t know that.”
In December, Boineau did not allow a group of 15 people to speak against Krabloonik during public non-agenda items because the district attorney had opened an investigation into the kennel. He and Courtney shouted across the room at each other then, and Courtney likened the scene to “Communist Russia.”
Boineau then said that the issue would be put on a future agenda when both sides could be present and that the speakers were trying to influence the investigation and staging a “dog and pony show.” He also said that the comments would be the same as at the numerous other council meetings the activists had attended and that they were trying to impact MacEachen’s holiday business.