Vail clarifies town council terms
VAIL, Colorado – Town council members who are approaching term limits as defined by the Vail Town Charter would be eligible to serve four-year terms if re-elected, according to a legal opinion requested by town attorney Matt Mire. The question arose after reviewing the terms of current council members Farrow Hitt and Kim Newbury, who have each been elected twice. Newbury will have served six years when her second term ends in November. Hitt also will have served nearly six years after first winning a special election to fill an unexpired term, then re-elected the following year.While the Vail Town Charter, adopted in 1972, limits council seats to no more than two consecutive terms not to exceed a total of eight years, the Charter conflicts with the Colorado Constitution, which defines terms as four years and states that elected officials may not serve more than two consecutive four-year terms in office. The Vail Town Charter includes a provision for both four-year and two-year terms. In reviewing the discrepancy, Kendra Carberry, an attorney with the firm Hayes, Phillips, Hoffmann & Carberry of Denver, has issued an opinion that the town is subject to the term limit provisions of the Colorado Constitution.Therefore, both Newbury and Hitt would be eligible to serve a four-year term if re-elected in the 2009 election, according to the opinion. The Vail Town Charter specifies the top three finishers in Vail’s municipal elections receive four-year terms, while the fourth highest finisher receives a two-year term. “A council member who has served both a four-year and a two-year term is eligible to serve another term, as he or she has not yet served two consecutive four-year terms,” Carberry says. “Similarly, a council member who has served one partial term and one four-year term is eligible to serve a third term, because partial terms do not count in computing term limits.” Carberry recommends the town amend its Charter provision to address the discrepancy. Three options will be presented to the Town Council during its July 21 work session. One option is to amend the Charter to apply four-year terms to all seats while retaining the provision regarding eight-year term limits, thus eliminating the provision for a two-year term. Another option would provide for four-year terms and eliminate term limits all together. The third option would preserve the current two-year terms for the candidates getting the lowest votes and would allow for not more than three consecutive “terms” regardless of the length of the terms served. All three options would require a public vote. Vail is thought to be one of the only home rule municipalities in the state with the current term limit discrepancy.Vail’s regular municipal election will be held Nov. 3 in which four of the seven town council seats will be up for election. In addition to Newbury and Hitt, the current terms of Kevin Foley and Mark Gordon will expire this November. Foley and Gordon are also eligible to run for re-election.