Objection to Unfortunate Statements in MM

edited December 2016 in Opinion

Tom Bomer's assertion in this morning's Mountain Mail that the majority on City Council who want to sell the Vandaveer property are "doing it to settle old scores. It is just that simple and just that ugly. [They are] dead set on perpetuating one more act of retribution..." is one of the most unfounded and divisive bits of emotional sentiment masquerading as fact made over the last few years regarding city affairs.

Council members are doing what they (and many other citizens) deem best to remedy a mess of a situation that was dropped in their laps. They have studied the facts, reviewed many years' financials, weighed the different priorities and have come up with a decision that many latecomers to the situation don't like. Well, that's the nature of democracy. You can't always get what you want.

To ascribe such impure motives as "perpetuating retribution" to the City Council members, some of whom have worked many years and all of whom are practically volunteers, represents a type of thinking that causes increased divisiveness, consideration of emotion instead of fact, and impaired ultimate decision making. Mr. Bomer owes the Council members an apology.

/s/ Jeff Auxier


  • I think most of us are baffled as to why council has created what feels like a manufactured crisis and a reason to liquidate Vanaveer at what is likely to be a loss to the citizens. In our confusion, we may ascribe nefarious reasons.
    One hopes that council is acting in the best interests of the city and its citizens, but absent a better rationale than what seems like dubious TABOR violations, we must wonder.

  • Jeff,

    To you, the fact that various and sundry citizens groups including CAG have been emotionally chewing on City Councils and administrations, since 2011, apparently does not count as negatives. But obviously, you were at least peripherally part of CAG, so you feel the need to defend the current Council group who are CAG like and continuing much of the same approach.

    Something floating around Salida is an interesting small change in the response to CORA requests. The City Attorney is charging for his time to review requests, rather than having much less expensive city staff respond. So, the cost of recent requests is a large multiple of before. The current approach is make sure CORA can't be easily afforded by those with concerns. They also use the attorney client as a reason to keep things hidden. Where are the folks representing CAG concerns currently?

  • Jeff,

    It seems like there were court decisions that provided judgments that you owed the city of Salida a fair amount of money in response to your several law suits against the city. What progress have you made in paying off those judgments? You certainly cost the city a lot of money in defending those lawsuits that you eventually lost.

  • edited December 2016

    Well there's a pivot from the issue at hand.

    Two cases I lost, the first one concerning Jon Fritz locating his 2 1/2 story "historical" cracker box ADU one-foot closer to his neighbor's property than allowed by the land development code, without seeking a variance which would have allowed his neighbors to provide comment. Hanlon and MacDonald decided themselves to undertake the defense of that case - there was never any city council decision to authorize it, although later on Hanlon always sought prior council approval to undertaking defense of cases. If the facts of the Fritz matter had been heard in the open at City Council, the Council might have made a much different decision on defending the case. I think Hanlon's firm billed the City about $30k for that case. I owe nothing.

    Second case was regarding the budget, filed about October 2013. Lost that battle but may have won the war. I was a lone voice in the wilderness in October 2013 with regard to City Budget irregularities and deficiencies and the Vandaveer project, and those issues have since moved to the forefront. We also now almost daily find out more and more from looking at past City and NRCDC finances just how much city and water and sewer fund money MacDonald, Schmidt and Yerkey surreptitiously shifted to their pet project out at Vandaveer. The attorney's fees on my case were insubstantial in relation to the money that was illegally wasted. The City began discloing more and more and it became harder and harder for them to hide what they had been hiding. I owe nothing to the City on that case.

    Another thing as to the budget case. It cost the City about $25,000, which was the CIRSA insurance deductible for the attorney's fees in defending the claim. Department heads are supposed to provide budgets to administration prior to October 15. It wasn't being done in the years before. In discussions regarding street improvement projects for the 2016 budget, however, I watched Public Works Director Bob Salmi say around October, 2015 to Council that since he had started planning and putting out for bid street projects sooner (in order to disclose them with specificity by October 15), that the City was probably saving about 3% to 4% on street projects costs. Contractors bid a bit lower on projects that they could lock into their calendar for the next year. Figure $1.5 million in annual streets projects costs, and that's between $45k and $60k per year in savings. The City has already gained more in lower street projects costs than it paid out in attorney's fees for cost of defense on the budget case.

    Note also that I brought suit against the City over the 80-acre Lowry Land Purchase, for land in the foothills near the stockyards, part of which the new bike trail goes over as I understand it. The was purchased with Conservation Trust Funds from the lottery, use of said funds requiring that the land be held in perpetuity for public recreation purposes. Yet Hanlon wrote into the resolution or ordinance approving the purchase that the lands could be used for any purpose that the (then development-mad) Council wanted. The language was immediately changed by Hanlon and Council after service of the suit, because it was so blatantly illegal. I incurred the cost of this suit, don't think the City paid anything of substance, and now the 80-acre parcel is protected for use as public recreation land.

    I also agreed to work for a concerned citizen at a reduced rate to stop the Council's blatantly illegal attempt to allocate $650,000 of revenues to an outdoor pool project that: had no plans, either structural, mechanical, conceptual or otherwise; that had been rejected from the 2015 Budget approximately 10 months previously; that had no engineering assurance that the water would be warm enough for outside pools; and, that was not put out to bid as required by law. The last Council majority wanted so badly to do that project that it became blind to very serious concerns that the following of proper process would have forced them to consider. The City has already in the last 10 or 15 years paid twice for the the hot water supply line, twice for the roof, and twice for the locker rooms. We have paid literally millions of dollars for the first foul-up of each of those projects. The Mountain Mail has plenty of articles detailing the history and enormous costs of each of these failed projects. Anyway, with respect to the illegal attempt to allocate monies just prior to last year's elections, CIRSA counsel told the City Council that they were out of their minds and to settle the lawsuit ASAP. My client and I likely saved, based on the pool's track record in the foregoing major improvement projects, hundreds of thousands of dollars for the City, given the complete lack of planning.

    As to a real waste of attorneys' fees, might want to ask Fish / Miller / Bomer how their lawsuit for disclosure of privileged attorney client communications is going, and what it has cost the City. Might also want to consider that the NRCDC's present legal action utterly defies the plain language of the Development Agreements between the City and the NRCDC, as well as the Bylaws of the NRCDC. The NRCDC Board has refused for months to talk to the City Council - just utterly clammed up and wouldn't discuss any issues - and then sought a temporary restraining order preventing the City from removing them. It's crazy to not talk prior to filing a suit, and likely leads to a lot of wasted money.

    I think High Country Bank recognizes the insanity and at least tried to get the parties to talk today. Don't know how it went, but the parties should have been talking for a while. Their failure to do so is entirely on the NRCDC Board, its members' emotions, and pressure from a relatively small but vocal group of people who have thus far refused to contemplate or accept the reality about what it actually costs to develop and maintain property, and who have thus far provided no explanation for how all of their fantastic dreams for Vandaveer (a kayak roll pond?!) can be financed and fulfilled.

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