Eagle won’t be paying for members’ Florida trip
In a unanimous vote following a lenthy executive session, members of the Eagle Town Board reversed an earlier decision and voted 5-0 not to reimburse Mayor Yuri Kostick and town board member Doug Seabury for costs incurred as part of a a three-day trip to Florida they took last month.
Mayor Pro Tem Anne McKibbin offered the following statement Tuesday: “After coming out of executive session, the board made a motion that it was the board’s decision and conclusion, based on advice from our attorney and our understanding of Article XXIX of the State Constitution (Amendment 41) that the town cannot reimburse Mayor Kostick and Trustee Seabury for the travel expenses of their trip to Florida Oct. 29 through Nov. 1 and remain in compliance with the Independent Ethics Commission’s Position Statement 12-01 on travel and travel reimbursement.”
Kostick and Seabury recused themselves from the vote.
Kostick and Seabury, together with local real estate agent and newly appointed Haymeadow local representative Scott Schlosser, participated in a Oct. 29 through Nov. 1 trip to Florida to meet with Haymeadow owner Alan Cohen of Abrika Development. The Haymeadow is a 837-unit residential development proposed at the 660-acre parcel located just south of the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink property. The development application was approved by the town board earlier this year.
The pair did not inform other town board members or town staff that they were headed to Florida to meet with Cohen prior to the trip. 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 board said they would be paying the $2,380 as part of the December bills approval, but reversed that decision Tuesday night. As for other costs associated with the trip, Kostick and Seabury have indicated there were no other trip expenses because they stayed at a guest house on Cohen’s property, where they also dined during the stay.
At the beginning of the Eagle Town Board meeting Tuesday night, Kostick read a statement regarding the Florida trip.
“On Oct. 17th, I was contacted by the owner of the Haymeadow Property, Alan Cohen. He informed me that there was a change in his local representation and that Ric Newman, had concluded his work for the project. In addition, he expressed his desire to better understand how his approved development was going to move forward into a construction phase.
“On Oct. 29, Doug Seabury and I flew to Florida to meet with Mr. Cohen at his request to discuss the future of the Haymeadow development. When we returned, Trustee Seabury and I met with Trustee Andy Jessen and Trustee Kevin Brubeck in separate meetings and also immediately contacted our town attorney and notified the town board and met with town staff.
“We both have come to understand that we made mistakes in procedure and sincerely apologize for any distraction and additional time and attention that our actions have brought to the town board and to the citizens of Eagle.”
When contacted Wednesday morning regarding the board decision not to reimburse costs for the trip, Seabury responded that he and Kostick have aready reimbursed Abrika for the plane ticket costs. The Enterprise has requested documentation of the reimbursement and Seabury indicated he will provide the requested receipts.
The other issue detailed in the statement is a violation of Colorado Sunshine Law.
As noted, after they returned from Florida, Kostick and Seabury reached out to other members of the town board to schedule meetings to update them about what they learned during the trip. As a result, a meeting was held with Kostick, Seabury and Jessen and another meeting was held with Kostick, Seabury and member Kevin Brubeck.
Those gatherings represent a violation of Colorado’s Sunshine Law which states “All meetings of a quorum or three or more members of a body, which ever is fewer, at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken must be open to the public unless an exception applies. § 24-6-402(2)(b).”
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.