Eagle officials respond to ethics inquiry decision
Eagle Mayor Yuri Kostick has pledged his full cooperation with the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission inquiry regarding a formal complaint filed by an Eagle citizen.
“I have not received any information on the complaint filed against me other than it was filed by Mike Stevens and that the commission would like additional information,” said Kostick this week. “I will cooperate fully with the commission. I hope to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”
The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission decided last Friday that it will investigate a trip to Florida made by Kostick and town board member Doug Seabury last fall to determine if their actions violated Amendment 41 of the state Constitution.
On Feb. 13 the commission deemed a complaint filed by Eagle resident Mike Stevens “non-frivolous” and notified the parties involved that an investigation will be conducted.
The subject of investigation is a Oct. 29 through Nov. 1 Florida trip Kostick and Seabury took with Seabury’s business associate Scott Scholsser to meet with Alan Cohen. Cohen is the owner and developer of the Haymeadow property in Eagle, a 660-acre parcel located just south of the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. Haymeadow is approved for a 837-unit residential development. Scholsser is the newly designated local contact for the Haymeadow project.
Prior to the trip, the pair did not inform other town board members or town staff that they were headed to Florida to meet with Cohen. After news of the trip became public knowledge, the Eagle Town Board released a written statement on Nov. 17 addressing the issue, particularly because the $2,380 airfare cost represents a violation of Amendment 41. Amendment 41 prohibits town officials or staff from accepting gifts, including travel costs, in excess of $50.
Initially the town board said they would be paying the $2,380 as part of the December bills approval, but it reversed that decision after closer reading of Amendment 41. The board noted reimbursing Cohen for the costs associated with the trip would violate the Independent Ethics Commission Position Statement on travel and travel reimbursement. Kostick and Seabury subsequently said they would pay the airfare costs themselves, indicating they did so on Dec. 15.
As for other costs associated with the trip, Kostick and Seabury have said there were no other trip expenses because they stayed at a guest house on Cohen’s property, where they also dined during the stay.
Seabury did not respond to a request for comment regarding the inquiry, and beyond his statement saying he would fully cooperate with the commission’s efforts, Kostick referenced several comments made by members of the Eagle Town Board.
The referenced comments were made Jan. 13 following an executive session when both he and Seabury recused themselves from any further Haymeadow business that comes before the town board. The official town board meeting minutes from that date state, “Kostick informed the board that he has chosen to recuse himself specifically on the three resolutions and in general on actions and discussions for all matters regarding Haymeadow now and in the near future, and will not be participating in related executive sessions. Trustee Doug Seabury recused himself from executive session, and also in general on actions and discussions for all matters regarding Haymeadow due to the fact that his partner Scott Schlosser has been hired by Abrika Properties.”
In response to that action, several members of the town board made statements of support for the decision.
“I would like to acknowledge the mayor and Doug for walking through this process with us. I think that every single person on this board has a choice and within that choice comes a lot of difficult decisions and often times brings about choices that we don’t have the answers to. I appreciate the effort that you have put in and the vulnerability that you have both show to address this issue while jumping into all of the challenges that come with it, and hopefully set yourself and the town up for success by stepping out of this process. We can acknowledge that it is not an easy decision and I appreciate you being willing to make that decision and I want to say for the record how much I appreciate everything you’re doing for the town with regards to making sure this is done in a correct manner to protect both yourselves and the town,” said board member Luis Benitez.
“Not to take advantage of that but it is very well stated and I agree 100 percent with Luis,” said board member Anne McKibbin.
“Not speaking for the other trustees but towards the board, for what you guys have done for this town in support of projects that are very important to the future direction of this community, and so for that, thank you,” said board member Kevin Brubeck.
“I’d like to reiterate and acknowledge that I firmly believe that the mayor and trustee Seabury have always acted in the best interest of the town, and always have on any actions they’ve taken. I’m just happy to offer my support in any way that I can. I appreciate their continued dedication to the town of Eagle,” said board member Andy Jessen.
“I don’t think that there is anything better than that. I don’t know what I can add that hasn’t already been said, and I wholeheartedly endorse what everyone has said. I mentioned at the last meeting that I so appreciate the decision you made. I know that it was done with the best of intentions with this obscure law and that sometimes laws are like that; ask any lawyer and they will tell you it’s impossible to know every one. So thank you and I thank you for your decision tonight. I think in my mind it’s evidence of the integrity that you have both demonstrated throughout this process and I know it hasn’t been easy for you, but I sincerely appreciate what you have done.”
All members of the town board were contacted this week to determine if they wanted to expand on their comments from the meeting. McKibbin was the only one to respond.
“I am in agreement and in general support of the various statements by fellow trustees in our expressions of support for Mayor Kostick and Trustee Seabury in reference to their intentions in engaging in a dialogue with the Abrika principals,” she said. “However, my support is limited to respecting that their intentions were good, but it does not extend to how they went about making that dialogue happen. Aside from the Article XXIX issues, my next greatest concern is that, to my knowledge, no one on staff or on the board was notified ahead of time of their trip and circumstances prompting it. That is a fairly cavalier attitude toward conducting the business of the town when the business of the town is supposed to proceed with the consent of and direction from the Board. Now that the IEC has agreed to investigate the complaints, I am content to wait until that process is done, and then consider how we move forward as a board.”
In a letter to the editor this week, Cohen also weighed in on the matter, stating a “petty witch hunt” was under way.
“These guys got me by taking a plane down asap and being simple and honest,” said Cohen. “Maybe they didn’t follow the goofy, petty rules that they were unaware of, but they got me to believe in them and the town. Maybe we were both wrong. Give it a break, this is laughable.” (Full text of the letter can be seen on page 8).
The Enterprise has filed a Colorado Freedom Information Act request with the Independent Ethics Commission to obtain copies of the complaints filed against Kostick and Seabury, as well as any other documentation regarding the inquiry.