Avon incumbent Sarah Smith Hymes accused of using position to get campaign help from town staff
Was Sarah Smith Hymes acting as Avon Mayor Pro Tem when she tasked town staff with an errand to help her 2018 town council re-election campaign?
Members of the council say it would appear so, after Smith Hymes asked town staff to procure her a report that had information she said she wanted for a candidate brochure.
Smith Hymes told the Vail Daily she recalled seeing interim Town Manager Scott Wright in passing before a council meeting, and said she asked him to provide some financial information for her as a candidate.
An email referencing the meeting, however, revealed that it was a regularly scheduled Mayor/Mayor Pro Tem “pre-council meeting.”
In the email, sent from Smith Hymes to Deputy Town Manager Preston Neil, Smith Hymes asks Neil for the report with no mention of her candidacy:
“I’m not sure if you were still at our pre-council meeting on Tuesday when Scott and I were talking about highlights of the town’s financials. He mentioned that on the Moody’s and Standard & Poors credit rating report, there were some good data points that he was going to send me, but I didn’t get them before he left town. I looked on avon.org but can’t find either report. Do you have them?”
Neil responds: “I tried to look up Avon on the Moody’s website, but it says I need login credentials to assess the information. I don’t see Avon as an entity on the S&P website. Val does not have access to those reports either.”
The email chain results in Wright saying he will task a different employee with finding the reports.
‘FAST AND LOOSE’
Smith Hymes says when talking to staff during her campaign, she always makes it clear that she’s talking as a candidate and not a council person.
But council member Jake Wolf doesn’t believe that to be true.
“There was no mention of her candidacy in that email, it came from her town of Avon email address and it looked just like any request a council person might make,” Wolf said. “We’ve been told repeatedly not to do exactly that — use taxpayer funded resources, like staff time — for our campaigns. It’s not right.”
Wolf says the small amount of time that was likely spent on the task is not the point.
“The point is that Sarah plays fast and loose with the rules, and this can be seen in her other decisions, as well,” Wolf said. “She was happy to skirt the TABOR laws in other decisions she’s made, including the skier building which turned out to be way overpriced, and then later she questioned going to the voters at all for the police station. I fear in her support of the multimillion-dollar Hahnewald Barn plan we’ll see more of the same.”
Smith Hymes referenced information provided in the Moody’s report in the Oct. 4 candidate’s forum in Avon. Her request to town staff for the information came in on Sept. 28.
“If a regular candidate, not acting as a council person, had asked for that info in that time frame, they might not have had it back in time to use it in the forum,” Wolf said. “Then it became obvious in watching the forum that she had specifically sought out that information before the forum so she could use it during the forum, as part of her whole campaign platform.”
When asked about what her intent was in seeking the information, Smith Hymes told the Vail Daily it was for candidate material.
“I said I’m trying to nail down some financial information as a candidate, I wanted it actually for my brochure,” Smith Hymes said. “I was trying to sort of distill some financial information for my brochure.”
Not much changes in Red Cliff, Eagle County’s oldest town. But change is coming on Water Street, the town’s main drag.