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City Council embarasses itself in public meeting

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- Ignoring a call for an executive meeting, Mayor Bruce Quintana called for a open city council meeting to air differences members of the council have with each other and his leadership.
The meeting was called by council member Erin Jerant to find out from the acting city administrator Beth Neece who she could work with. This was to give the council clearer vision of who they, as individuals, should vote for in November’s election. “I had requested an executive session for this, but the mayor insisted on having a public meeting,” Jerant said in her opening remarks.
Mayor Quintana passed the chairing of the meeting to Mayor Pro Tem Craig Lessar, thus freeing himself up to answer questions and make comments during the often contentious meeting.
Reading from emails exchanged between the mayor and Neece over the past year, Jerant hoped to show interference with the interim administrator by a city council member, harassment, and conflicting demands. The emails were produced by Neece to show proof of her allegations.
However as council members who support the mayor began finding common ground to build a defense, they began turning the tables, making Neece seem the perpetrator and the mayor the victim.
Council member Jennings was first to declare the meeting’s content as politically motivated. Quintana pointed out that he felt it was a carry through on a threat made by council member Jerant for being taken off the housing board nearly a year ago.
Former interim city administrator Don Saling attended the meeting and before leaving he addressed the council on the issues of importance it still faces after two years of in-house fighting.
“You’ve got a lot of challenges here in the city of Walsenburg. I came here and dug into the issues that face this community. For 10 months I did that. I’m not sure this city council… understands the magnitude of the challenges you face. The projects combined are significant. You are very lucky to have this young lady here [Neece]. If I were a city manager somewhere else, I would take her from you. She has more on her table then the City of Pueblo has on theirs.”
Saling continued, “When you look at the individual projects, you as the council need to provide the leadership for this community. Beth has done, in my opinion, an exceptional job.”
“You need to start building a vision for this community. You need to start looking at West Walsenburg, and I hate to say it but you are a dying community right now. You need to get that industry base, you need to find whatever that niche is. You as nine people need to provide that leadership,” he said.