Avon councilmen Chris Evans, Todd Goulding cleared of wrongdoing
AVON — It cost $10,000 and a lot of time, but after weeks of controversy, council members now have an independent opinion clearing their colleagues of any wrongdoing.
In a closed session meeting Tuesday, attorney Scotty Krob presented the Avon Town Council with his findings regarding accusations of impropriety and residency concerns leveled against council members Chris Evans and Todd Goulding.
The council will officially present those findings in a special meeting Oct. 2, but a draft copy of Krob’s report was made public on Wednesday, detailing his opinion on the matter.
Krob was hired by the town in late August to examine two development projects in Avon in which Evans Chaffee Construction Group — which is owned by Evans and employs Goulding — was involved. Goulding’s employment at the company, and whether or not working for Evans was affecting his votes on council, was also examined by Krob.
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Krob’s report said there is no evidence that, at the time of its unanimous approval by council in February, Evans-Chaffee Construction had any interest in the Wyndham project or had taken any steps to obtain work in connection with the project.
A few months after its approval by council, Evans Chaffee Construction was hired as local project managers on the Wyndham development after the previous project manager resigned.
“I conclude neither Evans nor Goulding took any official action related to the Wyndham project while they had a conflicting interest in the project,” Krob wrote in the report.
Krob detailed a similar finding on the Walgreens Project, which was only approved by the town’s planning and zoning commission, and not the council itself.
“The mere possibility of some future direct economic benefit to an elected official for work that is not being actively sought by the elected official or contemplated by the developer is not the type of direct and substantial economic benefit barred by Avon’s Ethics Code,” Krob wrote.
As far as Evans’ and Goulding’s employment relationship is concerned, Krob said Goulding working for Evans had not affected his voting record on council, citing several examples where the men have voted differently.
“The evidence does not support the conclusion that Evans controls or has attempted to control Goulding’s vote,” Krob wrote.
Krob also investigated both Evans’ and Goulding’s current residency status after residents in Avon said they want an outside examination on an opinion offered by Avon’s town attorney which said here in Colorado, renting a room in town constitutes residency.
“Colorado Supreme Court has a very liberal interpretation that if you have a legal residence and you claim that to be your primary residence, that’s OK. There’s not some rule that you have to sleep in a bed 183 days of the year,” said Eric Heil, Avon town attorney.
Both men are Avon homeowners, but after renting and family issues arose in both of the men’s individual personal lives, they have since moved their families to neighboring towns.
Regarding Evans, Krob wrote: “He retains a house in Avon, though it is currently rented out. He is employed in Avon, has his business in Avon, has a leasehold in Avon and owns the building in which his business is located in Avon. His driver’s license, voter registration, mailing address, utility billing address and address for federal income tax purposes are all in Avon. Under these circumstances and giving substantial weight to Evans’ expressed intent to remain an Avon resident, I conclude Evans is a resident of Avon under the Town Code’s provisions.”
Regarding Goulding, Krob wrote: “Goulding’s lease at (his previous residence) in Avon expired May 31, 2013. Accordingly, Goulding had until June 30, 2013, to take the matter up with council and gain council’s approval. This was accomplished on May 28, 2013, well in advance of the deadline. Regardless of whether Goulding is currently a resident of Avon, he has been granted permission by council through a method authorized by Avon’s Town Code to remain a member of council at least until June 1, 2014.”
Sum of its parts
Avon resident Laurie Adler and a group of her neighbors from Avon’s Eaglebend residential area were the primary accusers in the case.
In an email to the Vail Daily, Adler wrote that after reading through Krob’s report, she now feels the issue is with the Avon Ethics Code itself.
“It is clear that the Avon Ethics Code needs to be rewritten and strengthened,” she wrote. “ … Our expectations are for higher ethical standards from our elected officials than those that are currently found in the town of Avon’s Municipal Code.”
While it wasn’t part of the specific job description, Krob added a note at the bottom of his report addressing the language in Avon’s Code of Ethics, which says even an appearance of impropriety constitutes an ethical violation.
“If the facts are made known regarding each of the subject incidents, and those facts demonstrate that there were not conflicts in any of the separate incidents, there should not be a perception or an appearance of impropriety when the incidents are viewed collectively,” Krob wrote. “Those who perceive there to be an impropriety when in fact there is none may be operating from an incomplete understanding of the relevant circumstances.”
Evans and Goulding, in separate statements released as a result of Krob’s findings, both said they look forward to getting back to business in Avon.
“I know that Chris and I both are looking forward to refocusing our energies on appropriate town issues,” Goulding said.
The Oct. 2 special council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., where Krob will present his report, followed by public questions and comments.
“The council will discuss the report following public comment,” Town Manager Virginia Egger wrote in a release Wednesday.
Staff Writer John LaConte can be reached at 970-748-2988 and jlaconte@vail daily.com.