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Trustee Dawn Blanken responds to charges

by Dawn Blanken

LA VETA-  When the Signature called me last week to ask for my comment on the recall committee’s accusations, they failed to mention that their paper not only knew what the charges were, but had already written a report of them. Had they informed me of the story, I could have responded in the same edition of the paper that carried the accusation.

    The following are my comments on Popejoy/Keffler assertions.   1. Larry Klinke and the Olive Branch Bed and Breakfast were not denied any parking spaces. They received a variance from the code, to park their customers on the street instead of providing the required off street parking.   2. The 180ʼ cell tower was opposed by a huge majority of town residents because the location was inappropriate. The Town Board subsequently worked with both Comnet and Alltel and provided space for cell panels at the water tanks which provides revenue to the town of $1,500 a month.    3. The school came to the Town Board with a proposal to close and landscape Garland Street. What I voted against was a motion to table the issue. On March 18, 2010 the town received a letter from the Superintendent postponing the project “due to financial challenges currently existing in our school system.” The Board did not vote on the project. Garland Street is, and has been for many years closed to thru traffic while school is in session.    4. I did not override a decision by Mayor Schmidt. In June 2008 the Board voted to ban fireworks for the 4th of July because of a dry season. It then rained heavily for several days and people asked if they could do fireworks. The Mayor was out of town. I asked the Trustees if they wanted to hold a special meeting or let the Marshal decide if there was no longer a safety issue and they let the Marshal decide. His office posted the notices and I never made the statement I am quoted as making.           5. GetReal is a national volunteer campaign which was working in the La Veta schools with students to, through civic participation, discourage smoking. They came to the Town Board and asked permission to put signs in the town park discouraging smoking and the Board agreed. Neither I, nor my son, had or have a financial interest in the activities of GetReal. Bring my son into your agenda. Nice touch.     6. A decision of the Townʼs municipal judge was appealed to district court and the Town hired an attorney to represent us in that appeal. Although he came highly recommend we had not worked with him prior.  The Mayor asked for a Trustee to attend that trial and review the performance of the attorney and view the proceedings,which the Board was not familiar with.  I accompanied the Town, not the defendant. I knew all the parties. In a town of 850 people, it would be unusual not to.

7. As a result of personnel issues, which the law prohibits me from commenting on here, the municipal judge was asked to resign, which he declined to do. The Board suspended municipal court, referred appropriate cases to county court, and reduced the judges salary to the minimum set by code.      8. I had written a letter to the editor previously on the tax assessor questions which I encourage you to read.  I did not “act on my Own.” 

    In addition, in response to the article about the Sunshine Law violation, I will say that for the past three years I used the Colorado Municipal League Open Meetings/Open Records which include the following: “In a decision affecting the scope of the OML as a whole, the Colorado Supreme Court has provided important direction concerning what sort of meetings are covered by the Open Meetings Law.  The Court clarified that for a “gathering” to be subject to Open Meetings Law requirements “there must be a demonstrated link between the meeting and the policy- making powers of the government entity holding or attending the meeting.” The Court went on to explain that such a link exists when the meeting is“convened to discuss or undertake … a rule, regulation, ordinance, or formal action.”  On the other hand, “merely discussing matters of public importance,” does not trigger the requirements of the Open Meetings Law.”    “The Open Meetings Law provides expressly that chance meetings or social gatherings of public officials ‘at which discussion of public business is not the central purpose’, are not subject to the provisions of the Open Meetings Law.”  No one would argue that how something looks does not matter but I can assure you that nothing nefarious or illegal was discussed. After a meeting was adjourned and no decisions could be made they were considered social gatherings. The Trustees named in that story care deeply about the publicʼs trust. That said, anything that looks improper will be addressed by the Board.

    Editor’s note:  the recall committe turned in their petition on Wednesday morning with 102 signatures.