Trustee’s blogging leads to a discussion on ethics
EAGLE, Colorado – Mayor Yuri Kostick opened a discussion concerning code of conduct rules for the Eagle Town Board by outlining 28 separate projects the community is launching or planning in the coming months and saying that the ongoing conflict over written communications from member Brandi Resa is distracting Eagle from the work at hand.
The subject proceeded to consume the majority of the evening’s debate.
At the beginning of the meeting, Kostick said the proposed conduct rules constituted a board discussion and not a public one. However, several area residents attended the meeting to speak on Resa’s behalf. They questioned the code adoption, suggesting it represented an assault on Resa’s First Amendment rights.
“First Amendment rights and freedom of speech are not up for debate,” Kostick said. “I believe censorship is un-American and will not be tolerated.”
However, he said that other members of the board have issues with the content of the blog. Kostick said that the tone of her writing is contributing to a negative perception of the town.
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For instance, Kostick said that Resa has repeatedly written blogs about errors in the proposed 2013 budget. Tuesday night, she again stated her budget concerns have not been addressed. Kostick said when she brought forward her concerns, staff responded that the numbers were a typo and corrected the data. The board then requested quarterly financial reports be prepared so members could examine town finances on a more regular basis.
“In my mind, you got the resolution you are looking for,” Kostick said. “Your interpretation of what is happening here is not what has happened here.”
Resa said that she is the sole member voicing certain concerns and because she does not have support on the board, she airs her issues on her blog. For instance, she cited a chief ongoing complaint – a recommendation from the town’s auditors to be more aggressive in billing and collecting fees from developers for reimbursements.
“I don’t think it is acceptable that we are not billing developers for costs,” Resa said.
Noting that she is a certified public accountant and that the budget is a large concern for her personally, Resa said she believes it is her obligation to tell residents about financial issues such as reimbursables.
When a large-scale development – such as the commercial-residential Eagle River Station project or the residential Haymeadow project – is presented to the town, staff time and consultant fees are billed back to the developer. Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell emphatically stated that the town does bill and does collect fees for those services and that the auditor’s remarks reflected the goal of having payments happen in a timely fashion. During 2012, the town of Eagle billed $100,529.69 to Eagle River Station for reimbursables. The amount that is outstanding is $28,187.31, and the latest bill was sent Dec. 11. Last year, Haymeadow was billed $54,565.87, and the amount that is outstanding is $17,115.08, billed Dec. 11. All other developers are current on payments. The only other outstanding unpaid reimbursable bill for 2012 is $535 for all of the records associated with the Eagle River Station hearing, which was requested by and provided to Jan Rosenthal and the Citizens for the Future of Eagle and billed May 16.
Town Board member Joe Knabel said that the issue of reimbursables reflects his concern with Resa’s blogging – that the issues she brings forward are sometimes misleading.
Knabel said the reimbursable issue was one suggestion from the auditors in a “list of items for continual improvement.” However, Knabel said, the dominant theme of both the audit and its accompanying management letter was that the town is in strong fiscal condition and that its finances are in “excellent order.” The heart of the issue was that the town staff did an excellent job on financial issues, not the reimbursement suggestion, Knabel said.
Resa said that she has made several suggestions regarding better financial reporting that staff and the board have not followed up.
“I take extreme issue with that. I am following up,” Kostick said. “There’s a difference between critiquing and participating. The critique part is simply throwing mud, and I don’t think that helps.”
After a lengthy discussion of the issue, the Town Board members agreed to re-examine the proposed code of conduct rules to determine if they want to adopt them. Members said they will re-examine the proposed wording and offer suggestions and determine in January if they will approve the conduct rules.