Stone calls ad "personal attack’
County Commissioner Tom Stone is calling a full-page ad against him that appeared recently in the Vail Daily “a personal attack on me that had no basis in facts.”The ad, which first appeared Sept. 16, was paid for by Edwards resident Don Cohen and suggested a potential conflict of interest for Stone when he voted against contributing county funds to protect 4,300 acres at Bair Ranch in Glenwood Canyon. The ranch straddles the border of Eagle and Garfield counties.”We’ve already determined in a public meeting that there’s no conflict of interest,” Stone said. “I have yet to find out what Don Cohen is trying to do.”Conservationists had asked the county for a contribution to purchase a $5 million “conservation easement” that would bar development on the property, keeping it a working ranch. In July, Stone voted against a $2 million contribution from the county, citing difficult economic times and a lack of benefits for Eagle County residents.According to the ad, which cost more than $900 in the name “Citizens for Responsible Government,” Stone had at first supported federal funding for the preservation of the ranch but later changed his mind.The add also claims that at a July 29 public hearing on Bair Ranch, Stone admitted to having sought a listing from ranch owner Craig Bair to sell a riverside parcel.Stone, who has been a real estate broker with Slifer, Smith & Frampton for 14 years, said he never admitted doing that.”I wasn’t surprised by the ad,” Stone said. “I’m disappointed that Don Cohen is incapable of having a free exchange of ideas without personalizing them. Cohen is only interested in personal attacks on me that have no basis in facts.””Bipartisan’ groupCohen, a Republican, wouldn’t disclose the names of other members of the Citizens for Responsible Government.”They’re just a group of people who aren’t happy with the process and want to make a statement,” Cohen said. “All I can tell you is that it is a bipartisan group.”Cohen “published the ad in the name of an organization that doesn’t appear to be registered as a political action committee,” Stone said. “It doesn’t make any difference if it’s a bipartisan group. I still don’t understand what they want to accomplish. They’re a special interest.”Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton said that according to state statutes, the group doesn’t have to be registered as a political action committee because it’s not supporting or opposing the nomination of a candidate.”Nothing that they have done violates any of the statutes that govern the operations of the Office of the Clerk and Recorder,” Simonton said.Never a contractPart of the information in the ad was incorrect, Stone said.”Don Cohen was very clever in writing the ad, but it’s misleading,” Stone said. “I didn’t “admit’ at any meeting to seeking a listing from Craig Bair. Craig Bair contacted me and discussed listing a portion of the ranch with me. We never came to an agreement on the terms, so we never signed a contract.”Bair said he contacted Stone to see if he could get the support of U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, a Grand Junction Republican, to help preserve the ranch as open space. Bair said he now questions why Stone was willing to sell part of the ranch but not conserve it.Stone said he supported protecting Bair Ranch when the conservation push began in April 2002. But Stone said he changed his mind this year because of flaws in the process and voted against conservation in July.”It was irresponsible for the Board of County Commissioners at the time to vote on the expenditure without any supporting documentation on the Bair Ranch purchase,” Stone said. “We didn’t have then, nor do we have now, a final draft of the conservation easement.”Cohen declined to comment further on the goals of the Citizens for Responsible Government, but he said the group is discussing organizational structures.”I’m more about Eagle County that I’m a D or an R,” Cohen said, using the initials for Democrat and Republican.In the meantime, Bair said he doesn’t understand why some people are trying to beat the Bair Ranch deal down.”I’m trying to survive and I pay taxes like everybody else,” Bair said.Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or email@example.com.