Tag Archives: Saguache Politics

Latest News – August 8

Town Issues Addressed Without Trustee Quorum

By Kathy Bedell, © Saguache Today

It seems the one thing that the Town of Saguache and its residents can agree on is that tonight’s usual Town Trustee meeting for August 8 has been canceled.  From there, the divisions can run as far as the distance between the Sangre de Cristos and the San Juan Mountains, as the discussions of recent events – which no one is 100% clear on yet – continue on various social media platforms. Town officals posted the meeting cancelation notice on its doors to Town Hall as well as on its Facebook Page.

And while opinions may change with the stroke of a keyboard, the Colorado Constitution is a bit more formidable, allowing for solid guidelines and laws when it comes to the business of managing municipalities, which still needs to be carried out at the Saguache County seat. 

Once again, Saguache Today brings you the word straight from the source: Saguache Mayor Greg Terrell. There is also a response from Town of Saguache Trustee Wyoma Hansen who submitted her resgination on July 21. Saguache Today will do its best to continue to update this post as other elected officials weigh-in on the situation.

From the Mayor – August 7, 2017

Mayor Greg Terrell_2 copy

Saguache Mayor Greg Terrell

The following is intended to inform the citizens of Saguache of issues concerning the town. I will first cover some of the rules and regulations of local government. Then I will share how those rules and regulations have been applied to a recent situation of which there seems to be a great deal of misinformation being discussed in and around town.

I intend to follow up with a second article that will cover the status of various projects that the town is either planning for or is currently undertaking.

Local Government

There are matters of which a member of a town board cannot speak publicly, specifically confidential personnel issues and what is said in an executive session.

Four trustees, as the majority of a seven-member board, can take control of a board. They can call for a special session at any time, put an item on the agenda, make a motion, can second that motion and, if any four trustees vote yes, that motion carries. An executive session can only occur if a motion is made, it is seconded, and a majority votes yes. A mayor can call for a special session and can put an item on an agenda. However, a mayor CANNOT make a motion and cannot make a second.

A mayor gets only one vote. When the mayor is not present within the town, the mayor pro-tem is the acting mayor. The board can choose another trustee to act as mayor in the absence of both the mayor and the mayor pro-tem.

Any member of a board of trustees, including the mayor, has access to legal advice, professional services, periodicals, other towns’ mayors, trustees, council members, managers and administrators, clerks, state and federal agencies, insurance organizations, law books, videos, and institutions of higher learning. Additionally, there are numerous opportunities for education, training, networking, workshops, etc. These resources are available online, by telephone, hard-copy documents, and videos.

Within short drives of Saguache, training workshops, organization meetings and conferences are offered. The cost of these educational opportunities is, for the most part, covered by memberships and services the town already pays for, i.e. the town’s insurance carrier CIRSA, the town attorney, and Colorado Municipal League (CML) membership. If a board member needs legal advice on any town matter, he/she has immediate access to several attorneys. If there is a need for other types of advice, board members have a wealth of resources available at their fingertips, at no expense to them.

Recent Events

Before delving into recent events, I would like the community to know that I have asked and received legal advice on what I can, and cannot, talk about. I know most of us would rather not have the legal stuff clutter our town issues. Unfortunately, it is the reality of local government which operates under the laws of the State of Colorado.

Why the preamble? Because many of the details of recent events fall into a category of issues which cannot be discussed openly. However, what can be shared with you follows.

Saguache Town Hall post

The Saguache Town Hall is located at 504 San Juan Avenue. Photo: Saguache Today

The last Town of Saguache Board meeting occurred on July 11th. There was no board meeting on July 21, as was previously misstated by a number of sources. Between July 12 and July 19, I was out of town, most of that time out of state. Former Mayor Pro-tem Engquist was acting mayor. I did not return to my duties as mayor until the morning of July 20.

On July 17, Mayor Pro-tem Engquist contacted me by phone concerning a personnel issue. Several trustees were aware at that time of this matter. Instead of calling for legal advice, they waited for my return. Having just driven nearly 2000 miles, I was handed the matter in brief on the evening of July 19 and the full matter the morning of July 20.

Several trustees asked me to take a specific action. I did talk at length with three trustees that morning and did inform all three that I would take action. Immediately thereafter I contacted the town attorney for legal advice on the matter.

The legal advice I received was not to take any action without due process, meaning a thorough investigation of the situation. To do otherwise could subject the town to potential legal liability. As your mayor, it is my responsibility, along with the town attorney, to protect the town from such liabilities. It is the responsibility of every board member, including the mayor, to follow due process.

Due process of law is the cornerstone of American government. It is the rules, laws, and procedures by which government operates and is established in the 5th and 14th Amendments of the Constitution. Due process is based on two principals: truth-in-fact and fairness. Due process is often divided into two general headings: procedural and substantive. Procedural are the rules of due process. Substantive is due process in principal.

All elected officials take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. The Colorado Supreme Court says that whenever a local government board or official takes action, procedural due process is REQUIRED.

Swearing in Saguache Town Board April 2016

All elected officials take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution as did these elected Town of Saguache Trustees did in April 2016. 

On July 20, I informed former Trustee Hanson of the requirement of due process. I told her it required investigation of the issue and gathering evidence, including interviews of various individuals.

Once an investigation of the matter was completed, the facts discovered would then be presented to the board of trustees for review. The town attorney would offer a legal opinion on any potential action. After that, the board could determine what course of action to take. If an action were to be taken, it would require a formal decision by the board.

On both July 20 and July 21, with the town attorney involved at every step, due process was followed. On July 21, I had two phone conversations with former Trustee Hansen. During the first conversation, I advised her of the resignation of the deputy clerk. I asked former Trustee Hanson to contact the town attorney for details concerning both the resignation and the due process in progress.

Sometime after the first conversation, I received information from Town Hall that a citizen had been in an accident and was at a Colorado Springs hospital. I contacted the citizen’s family and was asked to go to the Springs.

The second conversation with former Trustee Hansen occurred as I was leaving town. I asked her if she had talked with the town attorney. She said that she had not. She stated that I had somehow forced the deputy clerk to resign. The fact is, I asked the deputy clerk not to resign, as did the town attorney. The deputy clerk’s resignation was her choice alone.

Former Trustee Hanson then informed me she had resigned as trustee and to check my emails. That was the last time I spoke with her. I did look at my emails and found three resignations. I next traveled to Colorado Springs, during which time I was in communication with the citizen’s family. In short, the citizen was released from the hospital, and I brought the citizen back to Saguache in the early hours of July 22. I saw the email of the fourth resignation at that time.

Why the resignations? I am puzzled. As stated previously, if four trustees object to anything, they can use their powers to call for a special session, put their issue on the agenda, make a motion, second it and out vote the other members as the majority.

If they need legal guidance on a decision, they can call either or both the town attorney and the attorney(s) for CIRSA. I know none of the trustees who resigned called the town attorney, let alone any other attorney available to the board. I know this because I asked. The two remaining trustees have talked with the town attorney.

My suggestion for the community is to ask the following questions of the four trustees who resigned:

1. Did you reach out to any of the numerous resources at your disposal? 
2. Why did you abandon your responsibilities as elected officials?
3. Why, if the matter was important, did you not take action rather than waiting for the mayor to return and then the next day resign?

What Now?

I and the remaining board members, with the assistance of the town attorney, have consulted with CIRSA’s attorneys, CML, and The Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) as to next steps. We have also sought the advice and guidance of administrators and clerks in other municipalities here in the Valley.

When a local governance board lacks a quorum (in our case 4 are needed), then the remaining board members must find and appoint trustees until a quorum is reached. Once the quorum is met, then the board must authorize the remaining seats to be filled in accordance with state statutes.

A trustee (not the mayor) is tasked with finding a citizen willing to be appointed and thereby obtain a quorum. Without a quorum, the board is very limited in what it can do, including having a meeting. There were two meetings scheduled, July 24 and August 1. Both had to be canceled due to a lack of a quorum. No decisions can be made by the board until a meeting can be held, except those which are “necessary.”

The mayor can authorize certain things for the town to continue to operate. I did authorize, upon CIRSA and the town attorney’s recommendation, that the town administrator find and fill the clerk position with an “Interim Town Clerk.” The requirements were as follows: must be local, must have good accounting skills, and must have professional writing skills. The town administrator did hire someone last week who met all those requirements.

This position will last until a town clerk is hired and appointed by the board. The board must agree by vote to advertise for and follow procedure in hiring a town clerk. Since the town clerk’s resignation in March, the board has been reluctant to begin this process. It is my hope that once the board seats are filled, that this process can begin. The town’s bills will continue to be paid. These bills can later be reviewed by the board. The only other matter I have authorized is the formal extension of the town’s annual audit which was requested by the town’s auditor, Pete Blair.

Moving Forward Takes a Team

We still have projects in motion. We still have statutory requirements to meet. We still have the daily operation of the town to handle. The participation of citizens in the process, by seeking out the facts and basing any action on that which is in the best interest of the town, are the traits of good local government. Citizens have a choice, by their actions, which path will be taken. The town can either be an environment of hatefulness, polarization, and stagnation, or it can be an environment of problem solving, teamwork, and securing the town’s future.

Sincerely,

Greg Terrell, Mayor
Town of Saguache

 

Bebuttal from Wyoma Hansen, (resigned) Town of Saguache Trustee:

The following letter was posted to a local facebook Page by Wyoma Hansen, one of the four Town of Saguache Trustees who submitted their resignations on July 21.

In response to Mayor Terrell’s letter dated August 7, 2017.

Wyoma Hansen_Saguache Today

Wyoma Hansen

I encourage the citizens of Saguache to ask Linda Ahrens about her resignation.

Answers to the questions that Mayor Terrell wanted the citizens to ask the four trustees that resigned. Following is my response to the questions:

1) I did reach out to different organizations, reviewed Colorado Revised Statutes and talked with individuals that work or have worked in town government organizations. From my conversations and research, I determined that working with the Mayor was the best way to resolve the issues, but this has not happened.

2) Abandon is a harsh term to use in reference to my resignation. I resigned because unforeseen chain of events that were happening on my watch, that I will not tolerate.

3) We were following the mayor’s advice and when he returned, the events took an unexpected turn, which blindsided the trustees.

Some of the events involve confidential personnel issues. I would like to encourage Mayor Terrell to be a leader, work with the four board members and resolve the issues.

My suggestion for the citizens of Saguache is to ask the following questions of the remaining board members and Mayor Terrell.

1) When will a forensic audit begin on the town finances? Due to the number of employees that have been involved in the finances an audit should be done immediately to protect the town and new employees.

2) Do you feel the State of Colorado Attorney General’s office should be brought in to review the town’s records and business practices?

3) Why was there no effort by Mayor Terrell to meet with the four board members to resolve the issues?

4) When will you be holding a town meeting to discuss the issues?

I apologize for long messages, but posting on Facebook seems to be the only venue that the Mayor responds to.

I am impressed with the outline of time and energy Mayor Terrell has spent on the issues. Did he ever say I tried to work with the four trustees, in the letter? Seems like it would of been a simple solution for a leader.

I believe it is time to move on and get beyond the he said, she said articles. I hope the citizens of Saguacge remain involved in what is going on.

Sincerely,

Wyoma Hansen

Latest News – December 15

Looking Back on 2016 and Forward to 2017
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 By Saguache’s Congressman Scott Tipton

We’re approaching the time of year when most people begin to think about their New Year’s resolutions. As we look forward to all of the opportunities 2017 will bring, I think it’s also important to take a moment to reflect on the progress we have made in the past year and identify areas where there is still work to be done.

Representing the Third Congressional District of Colorado in the 114th Congress has been an honor. My primary focus this Congress has been on advancing policies that grow jobs, spur economic growth, and support health and safety in our communities.

U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton visits with leaders in the San Luis Valley during a trip home to Colorado in early 2016. Photo: Congressman Scott Tipton official Facebook Page.

U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton visits with leaders in the San Luis Valley during a trip home to Colorado in early 2016. Photo: Congressman Scott Tipton Facebook Page.

I’m proud of the bipartisan effort the resulted in the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law in July, and the 21st Century Cures Act, which has passed both Chambers of Congress and will soon be signed into law.

During roundtable meetings in the communities that have been most devastated by the opioid epidemic, I heard from parents, health care providers, law enforcement officers, and others about the heavy toll the epidemic has had on almost every part of our society. Both CARA and the 21st Century Cures Act will have real-life, positive impacts on those who have been touched by opioid addiction.

I was also proud to work with Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to make sure the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which will be signed into law before the end of the year, included a provision to expedite the process for states, local governments, and tribes seeking to recoup expenses they incurred after the Gold King Mine spill.

Following the Gold King Mine spill, it is clear that we need a better approach when it comes to cleaning up contamination in old abandoned mine sites in the West. I will continue to work next Congress on Good Samaritan Legislation that removes existing hurdles that discourage qualified Good Samaritan groups from conducting remediation.

Overall, our primary focus in the 115th Congress will be to roll back the unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations that have overrun states’ rights and plagued our economy over the last eight years. Our first order of business will be repealing and replacing Obamacare with a health care system that is actually affordable and accessible for Americans. Then we’ll turn our focus to enacting the reforms we’ve developed over the past year as part of our Better Way Agenda to fight poverty, restore Constitutional power, allow people to keep more of their hard-earned money, and rebuild our national defense.

We have a tall task ahead of us, but we’ll hit the ground running in 2017.

Latest News – December 14

Saguache Election Ballots to Be Bi-lingual in 2017

New data released earlier this month from the U.S. Census Bureau will require Saguache County to provide election ballots in Spanish in order to be in compliance with the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

Resident Byron Smith casts his ballot in last April's Election in Saguache. Starting in 2017, ballots for Saguache County will be avaialble in Spanish, as well as English.

Resident Byron Smith casts his ballot in last April’s Election in Saguache. Starting in 2017, ballots for Saguache County will be avaialble in Spanish, as well as English.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the Civil Rights Movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand it.

Saguache was one of three San Luis Valley counties, the list also including Costilla and Conejos counties, which will be operating under that provision until after 2020, when the next census is conducted. Although for Costilla County it is not a change per se, as this area already operates under these VRA requirements.

On December 5, the U.S. Census Bureau released a list of 263 jurisdictions across the nation that must provide language assistance during elections for groups of citizens who are unable to speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process. These determinations are pursuant to specifications, as amended in July 2006, in the Voting Rights Act.

The list, published in the Federal Register, identifies which jurisdictions are covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act and must provide language assistance for Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Asian language groups.

The Saguache County Courthouse, is the home of the Saguache County Clerk and Recorder who runs local elections. Photo: Saguache Today.

The Saguache County Courthouse, is the home of the Saguache County Clerk and Recorder who runs local elections. Photo: Saguache Today.

The Census Bureau has made these determinations following each decennial census since Section 203 was enacted in 1975. In 2006, Congress specified that the Census Bureau use statistics from the American Community Survey following the 2010 Census to conduct these determinations every five years. The determinations released today use data from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

The 263 covered jurisdictions make up 3.3 percent of the 2,919 counties and 4,943 minor civil divisions that comprise the political subdivisions in the United States which were calculated for the Section 203 determinations. There are 68,800,641 eligible voting-age citizens in the covered jurisdictions, or 31.3 percent of the total U.S. citizen voting-age population.

The 2016 determinations found a total national population of 21,739,327 voting-age citizens subject to minority language assistance that reside in the 263 covered jurisdictions, compared with 19,209,431 and 248 jurisdictions in 2011, an increase of 13.2 percent. The determinations found a total of 16,621,136 Hispanics, 4,760,782 Asians, and 357,409 American Indian and Alaska Native voting-age citizens in the covered jurisdictions.

A complete list of which jurisdictions are covered, including which language minority groups are included, can be found in the Federal Register Notice.

In support of this Federal Register Notice, and as done with past publications of the Section 203 language determinations, the Census Bureau is releasing a set of public files presenting the underlying data used to construct these determinations.  This file and information about this file can be downloaded from the Census Redistricting Data program website.

 

 

Latest News – October 10

TiptonBannerI recently asked over 100,000 people across the Third Congressional District if they thought today’s kids are on track to be better off than their parents. Of those who responded, nearly 78 percent said no.

Many of us “Baby Boomers” have been lucky to experience the American Dream. After growing up in Cortez, CO, I had the opportunity to attend Ft. Lewis College and become the first person in my family to earn a college degree. After college, my brother and I started a business, and I met my wife, Jean. We welcomed two beautiful daughters into the world, then two sons-in-law, and just recently our second grandbaby.

For decades, we heard stories similar to ours from families in towns across the United States. But recently, it seems like the American Dream we experienced is out of reach for too many people. We’re changing this with the Better Way Agenda.

Our agenda is made up of six different planks focused on: poverty, national security, the economy, the Constitution, health care, and tax reform. Here’s an overview of the first half of the agenda:

  • A better way to address poverty: give people purpose by strengthening work requirements for government assistance programs, make sure people don’t lose needed benefits because they get married or take a higher-paying job, and reward results by utilizing government programs that work and shutting down programs that don’t.
  • A better way to grow our economy: regulate smarter by cutting down on needless red tape and making the regulations we do need more efficient. Stop relying on one-size-fits all mandates, and instead, put more power back into the hands of state and local governments.
  • A better way to restore Constitutional authority: Congress must write clear laws that leave no room for radical interpretation, and through Congress, the American people must have the final word over who is spending their money and where it’s being spent.

To solve the complex problems our country is facing today, we need to implement reforms that are going to have real impacts in our communities and on our families. The Better Way Agenda is the start of this work, and I look forward to sharing the second half of it with you soon.

 

Latest News – May 12

Political News: Update from Congressman Scott Tipton

The following is an update from Congressman Scott Tipton who represents Saguache Today in the 3rd District of Colorado. TiptonBannerspacer

Did you know there are 28 million small businesses in America and almost two thirds of all jobs in rural areas are created by small businesses? Those small businesses, especially in rural areas, face greater challenges than their more urban competitors. This is largely because their access to capital, technology and transportation is limited. As National Small Business Week has come and gone, please keep this in mind and make sure to support our district’s small businesses and the people who work hard to keep the doors open and Main Street thriving.

In addition to championing the spirit of National Small Business Week, the Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) received the Excellence and Innovation Center Award as well as winning the Region VIII award! I know firsthand just how important the SBDC’s work is in Southern Colorado. The center has played a vital role in helping entrepreneurs in Pueblo and throughout our communities gain access to job and networking opportunities, business skills training and counseling services.

teacher-appreciation-weekLast week was also National Teacher Appreciation Week and 20 high schools in Colorado’s Third Congressional District have been nationally recognized as outstanding educational institutions by U.S. News & World Report! This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our incredible teachers. If you have not done so already, please join me and thousands of parents across our district to ?thank a teacher and recognize how important their work is to educate, inspire and guide young people to succeed in life.

Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it plans to commit additional funds for monitoring the water conditions of the Animas and San Juan Rivers. While I welcome the EPA’s announcement to provide additional funds to monitor water conditions I still maintain these resources should have been made available to San Juan and La Plata Counties, and all the affected communities and ecosystems for that matter, some time ago. With the Spring season upon us and mountain runoff churning up sediments which affect river conditions, we need the rapid implementation of accurate and real-time water monitoring systems in order to gauge each river’s recovery and overall health – especially as Silverton, Durango and so many others begin the tourism season.

 

Included in Congressman Tipton’s report were the following news item links . . . . . In Case You Missed It!

Denver Post: EPA to spend $600K more to monitor effects of Gold King Mine accident: The Environmental Protection Agency plans to spend another $600,000 to monitor the Animas River for pollution in the aftermath of last year’s ecological disaster at Colorado’s Gold King Mine.  The infusion of cash was announced this week by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner of Colorado; the two lawmakers, along with Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, had urged the EPA this spring to devote more resources to studying the river’s water quality. Read more here.

Montrose Daily Press: Heroin hitting DA’s resources: Growing addiction rates and lower prices for heroin have caught public resources in something of a perfect storm: While the drug does not originate in Montrose, its effect is seen here in overdose deaths, law enforcement investigations and at the District Attorney’s Office.  U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, concerned with how the “national opioid epidemic” is affecting Montrose and the rest of the 3rd Congressional District, has cosponsored three new bills to help boost prevention and treatment. Read more here.

Bloomberg BNA: EPA Criticized for Size of Gold King Spill Reimbursements: The Environmental Protection Agency has paid more than $1 million in reimbursement for costs paid by local governments in the aftermath of the 2015 Gold King Mine spill in Colorado, where EPA investigators triggered the release of mining wastewater and sediment into a river.  “This is par for the course with the EPA,” Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) said in an April 28 statement. Read more here.

Pueblo Chieftain- OpEd: U.S. needs unfair trade practices to end: The proud history of Pueblo is the history of steel making in the American west. Established in 1872, EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel (then known as the Colorado Fuel and Iron Co.) helped build the American West by providing affordable steel and iron to the western territories and the nation’s expanding rail systems.  As a company, and as an industry, we are working with members of Congress to urge the Obama administration to take aggressive action to stem the tide of unfairly traded steel products being dumped on our shores. We have strong bi-partisan support and are particularly grateful for the solid support and leadership of Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, both of whom have been strong supporters of the steel mill and are working hard with us to address these current challenges. Read more here.

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: Drones could fight fires, Tipton says: The next big thing in fighting wildfires might be the drone, said U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo. Unmanned aerial vehicles, frequently referred to as drones, could aid firefighters on the ground, as well as help with forest management, Tipton said after a briefing with U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., about the U.S. Forest Service’s use of unmanned aerial systems. Read more here.

Denver Post: Trapper Mine can remain operational following environmental review: Trapper Mine will remain operational and continue to employ more than 180 people following the completion of a court-ordered environmental assessment. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., released a statement Friday welcoming the Department of Interior’s announcement that the assessment had been completed by the April 30 deadline. Gardner, along with Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., had sent a letter to the department in December urging them to complete the assessment in a “timely manner.” Read more here.