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City council votes to reopen WHA board appointment issue

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — On a four to two vote Tuesday night, the Walsenburg City Council took back their ratification of Mayor Larry Patrick’s self-appointment to the Walsenburg Housing Authority Board.
The vote was prompted by housing authority resident Manuel Lujan’s remarks during the citizen forum portion of the meeting. Lujan appeared before the council to ask they reconsider his letter of interest in the position. He said he had hand delivered his letter of interest to the city prior to the September 4 meeting when Patrick’s self-appointment was before the city council for ratification.
A number of council members say they never saw the letter. Patrick was accused of keeping the letter from the council.
Patrick appointed himself to the position at the August 21 meeting and the ratification vote was set for the next regular session.
Patrick told the HWJ, he did remove Lujan’s letters from the city council dias where they had been placed in front of each council member’s seat. He said his reasoning for the action was that Lujan was not on the Sept. 4 council agenda, and he felt at that time Lujan’s interest was a ‘moot point’ since his self appointment had been announced two weeks prior. Patrick told the HWJ he had been approached by Lujan who expressed interest in the board position sometime in February or March and he had advised him at that time to submit a letter of interest.
Fourth Ward councilman and current Huerfano County Commissioner candidate, Nick Vigil, said Patrick lied to the council when he told them there were not any other people interested in the position.
Second Ward councilman Rick Jennings said he felt Patrick’s self-appointment, while done within the mayor’s authority, should not have been done without all council members being made aware that others were interested in the position. “All applicants should have been considered,” Jennings said.
Jacque Sikes, a current member of the housing authority board, joined Lujan at the podium, and said, while she was speaking for herself and not the entire board, the full board supports Lujan as a member. “We are trying to meet HUD requirements and serve our residents,” she said. “This is absolutely not a decision against Mayor Patrick being on the board,” Sikes said, “we have made a lot of changes, and if a resident requests to be on the board it should be honored.”
Patrick said he didn’t agree with the action taken to reopen the issue, “but we will go from here’.
The motion to rescind the ratification was made by Mayor Pro Tem Craig Lessar and council members Lessar, Vigil, Jennings and Silvana Lind voted to rescind the ratification; Patrick and First Ward Councilman Jim Moore voted to keep the decision in place. Council members James Baca and Erin Jerant did not attend the meeting.
The decision to appoint a member to the housing authority board remains with the mayor.
The action Tuesday night only affects Patrick, and does not change the ratification votes reflected for other housing authority board members in Resolution 2012 R-19.
See the Huerfano World Journal Facebook page for additional details of the city council meeting Tuesday, September 18.

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