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Town’s attorney responds to recall inquiry

by Carol Dunn
Between the last La Veta Town Board Meeting and the one on January 18, Mayor Don Keairns consulted Town Attorney Larry Berkowitz about reimbursing Trustee Dawn Blanken for her legal costs due to the pending recall petition.  Trustee Dale Davis read the correspondence Tuesday night, in which Keairns inquired about whether it would be proper for the Town to pay all of Blanken’s legal costs related to the recall and also asked if the Davis motion to pay those expenses was out of order, as the Mayor had ruled on January 4.
    Berkowitz cited CRS 39-4-5045 in his reply: If the incumbent whose recall is sought is not recalled, or the petition is invalid, then any money actually expended could be reimbursed as allowed by the statute.  Berkowitz explained that nothing in the law stops the Board from paying the expenses, although he advised the Board to set a dollar limit.  He also opined that there was nothing out of order in Davis’ motion.  Davis then moved that the Town pay for Blanken’s attorney fees up to $5,000 in her defense regarding the recall petition.  The motion was seconded by Trustee Jim Fowler.  Mayor Pro-tem Larry Klinke stated that there should be no expenses since there has not been a recall election, then asked Blanken what her expenses are so far.  Blanken responded $1,000, because she was named as a defendant in the lawsuit against the Town.  She said Berkowitz advised her to get an attorney to respond to the filing, a separate legal issue from the recall, since he would not represent both she and the Town.  Trustee Tracy Webb said, “It was harassment including Blanken in the protest to the court.”      In a roll-call vote on the Davis/Fowler motion, Webb, Fowler and Davis voted yes; Erwin, Klinke, and Keairns voted no; and Blanken abstained.  The Mayor then ruled that the motion failed.  Klinke explained that most people in Town are not in favor of reimbursing Blanken’s legal fees, which drew scattered questions from the audience about how he knows that, and then resulted in a heated exchange of words between Klinke and Mr. Sajdak from the audience.
    The recall has already cost the Town over $9,200 in legal fees.  An audience member suggested a private fund be set up at a local bank to help Blanken with legal fees. Erwin said, “We need to stand up for each other on the Board.”  And Davis added, “Right now we’re divided – the Town’s divided.”  Webb pointedly asked Kelly Popejoy, one of the recall petitioners in the audience, why Blanken was included in the suit against the Town.  Popejoy responded, “I wrote the original filing.” She explained that it was a request for the District judge to review the way the recall petition was handled.  “Dawn is the subject of the recall, but no relief is asked against Dawn,” Popejoy said.  Webb asked her, “You do not feel bad about the $9,000 cost of this recall petition?”  Popejoy responded that it wasn’t her decision for the Town to consult an attorney.
    In other business, the Board approved a request by Paul and Charlene Sloan for a setback variance at 105 E Field Street, on the front and west side of the house.  The Sloans had a deck built by someone who was not a contractor, and they did not get a building permit.  They applied for the permit after the fact, were fined, and were now applying for the variance to bring their deck and house into compliance.
    The Board is working on a zoning ordinance to address a triangular parcel of railroad property between the railroad and First Street, formed by the two spurs coming off the main tracks.  Railroad management wants to use the property, but it needs to be zoned first.  The Railroad Support Zone will specify permitted uses, ie. “functions related to operation of the interstate railway network or rail transportation as regulated by federal law.”  Special uses would include service or benefit to tourist excursions; temporary structures; and special uses approved by the Town.
    Mark Brunner, with the La Veta Fire Protection District, presented a draft intergovernmental agreement that addresses fire hydrants.  He explained that the Town is “graded” by Insurance Services Office (ISO) for its level of fire protection, and some insurance companies set homeowner and business insurance rates based on the grade.  The agreement ensures that hydrants are serviced, tested, and specifies who repairs them.  At a suggestion from Klinke, the two boards may hold a workshop to refine the four-page agreement, which they have been working on for four years, before either agency’s next board mtg.
    The Board approved the use of Town Park from July 2-3, 2011 for Art in the Park. Laura Smith said parking was an issue last year.  She suggested that, with the number of people who come to La Veta for the event, “We should make them feel welcome.”  She will explore using the football field as a parking area.
    The Board approved payment of $12,802.45 to Chad Lessar Excavation LLC for work on the sewer system improvements, which are now completed.

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