Avon calls for council ethics investigation | VailDaily.com

Avon calls for council ethics investigation

AVON — At the town council’s special meeting Wednesday, everyone in attendance agreed on one thing — an outside opinion regarding the recent accusations of council member ethics violations is in order.

At a town hall meeting last week, council members Chris Evans and Todd Goulding were questioned by members of the public regarding private sector involvement by the company they work for in a project supported by the town.

Those questions quickly turned into formal complaints, which were leveled Wednesday after Mayor Rich Carroll called for the special meeting to hear out the issue.

According to the town’s code of ethics, the council will promptly investigate any complaint filed with them if that complaint suggests a violation of the code of ethics has occurred.

“The Walgreens project was approved while Mr. Evans and Mr. Goulding were council members, and then the contract was awarded to the company that Mr. Evans and Mr. Goulding work for. No perceived or real conflict of interest? Really?”
Joe Walker
Avon Resident

Third-party investigation

While Carroll himself questioned whether or not an investigation was necessary, he said in this instance, if an investigation is to occur it should be conducted by an independent third party and not the council itself.

Councilman Jake Wolf called for a motion to have a third party investigate, which was unanimously approved. Several complaints were filed at the meeting, but Wolf referenced one in particular in his motion — that of Avon resident Joe Walker — which detailed five specific examples of alleged unethical conduct.

Walker also delivered the complaint in a speech to the council, which at times sounded like a take on “Saturday Night Live’s” “Really” bit with Seth Meyers.

“The Avon Town Council approved (the Wyndham project) and now Mr. Evans and Mr. Goulding are working on behalf of Wyndham as ‘owners representatives’ … Really?” Walker said. “The Walgreens project was approved while Mr. Evans and Mr. Goulding were council members and then the contract was awarded to the company that Mr. Evans and Mr. Goulding work for. No perceived or real conflict of interest? Really?”

Walker said in addition to those two examples of what he sees as ethics violations, the fact that Goulding started working for Evans after becoming a council member was problematic because Goulding could be risking his job if he doesn’t vote the way Evans wants him to.

Walker also called into question both men’s residency, saying a legal opinion from the town attorney which states Goulding and Evans can sit on the council despite the fact they don’t live in Avon is insufficient due to the fact that the attorney reports to Evans and Goulding.

Walker also said Goulding and Evans ignored a citizen’s request to sign a pledge saying they would not benefit from approving amendments regarding Avon’s Traer Creek settlement.

“All of the five above items would, at a minimum, raise an eyebrow to the casual observer,” Walker said.

Goulding, Evans support proposed investigation

Goulding and Evans said they were also calling for an independent investigation after hearing the complaints, as they feel no ethics violations have occurred and an independent investigation will reveal that.

Just whom the independent party conducting the investigation will be is yet to be determined. Avon resident Laurie Adler suggested the council take advantage of the services offered by Colorado Ethics Watch in Denver, saying they would likely take on Avon’s question at no cost to the taxpayer.

The council expressed interest in taking the matter before the district attorney, but took no official action as to whom would conduct the investigation, directing staff to select potential candidates to present to council. The likely outcome is that the council, with the exclusion of Evans and Goulding, will select an investigating attorney or group at a later date and will decide to present the matter to the district attorney based on that finding.

The Avon Town Council meets again on Tuesday.

Staff Writer John LaConte can be reached at 970-748-2988 or jlaconte@vaildaily.com

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