Take Cover in Green Mountain Falls

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by Rick Langenberg:

 

Political warfare continues to rage in Green Mountain Falls , with no signs of a temporary truce, or for that matter, an olive branch. And with a municipal election not scheduled until next spring, the atmosphere could get extremely ugly over the next four months.

Last week, the Concerned Citizens of Green Mountain Falls group reloaded their campaign guns and announced plans to recall five of the seven elected leaders and to organize a petition initiative, requiring local voters to decide the fate of a proposed ordinance that would establish a town manager and set the ground rules for such a position, instead putting this decision in the hands of the trustees. In addition, two high profile leaders, Mayor Lorrie Worthey and Trustee Tyler Stevens (a former GMF mayor) have officially joined the ranks of the Citizens group, which plans to meet on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, veteran trustee Mac Pitrone is accusing the mayor of overstepping her boundaries and making comments that make “our town government look like idiots,” and not representing the town correctly in dealing with key law enforcement matters. He has stressed that Green Mountain Falls is a statutory town, meaning that it is run by a majority vote of the trustees, and not by the opinions of one leader.

And to further complicate matters, resignation documents were released last week regarding the departure of former Marshal Tim Bradley. This detailed seven-page letter outlined a horrendous work environment that for months reportedly endangered Bradley’s health and that of his officers. Unprofessional behavior by other local officials and elected leaders and a staunch effort to oust him by several trustees for no apparent reason other than their own personal agenda were also detailed in this letter. With the latest developments, some are wondering if the town of Green Mountain Falls can survive the political fallout.

New ouster campaign

In a meeting last week at The Pantry restaurant, the Concerned Citizens group leaders made it clear that their campaign, which had stalled for several months, is alive and well. “We need to come together as a community and make a difference in people’s lives,” said Judith Wiedner, the Citizens’ main spokesperson. “We need to forgive, we don’t have to forget,” she added, in referring to what some citizens’ view as the unfortunate manner in which Bradley was forced to resign as police chief. The departure of Bradley, who served as the town’s head marshal and police chief for two and a half years, has reinvigorated the Concerned Citizens group.

Contrary to last summer, the group has taken a much more focused approach, and now wants to educate the voters and get them involved in electing new leaders or running for office themselves. “Nothing is going to change if nobody votes,” said Marshall Worthey, the husband of Lorrie Worthey, who previously served as a trustee for six years. “Get the government back in the hands of the people,” said Worthey, who, as a military veteran, expressed much disdain for what is occurring with the majority trustees. “It’s not right. I didn’t spend a lot of nights in the mud for this….People need to step up and enter the fray. We are losing our democracy because of apathy.”

Other group members echoed similar sentiments and expressed concerns over the exit of Bradley and the reasons why he left. Marshall Worthey stressed that a resident doesn’t have to exhibit great political skills in order to run for office in Green Mountain Falls . Stevens agreed, noting, “What is really important, is having a shared sense of what the problems are.”

Wiedner cited the importance of developing an educational campaign and getting more people to attend their meetings. Despite the strong rhetoric and concerns about the resignation of Bradley and the takeover of law enforcement by El Paso County , the Concerned Citizens group meeting last week generated a turnout of less than 20 people. Lack of participation became a problem for the group several months ago. 

Nevertheless, the group plans to initiate a recall campaign against five trustees, even though some of these members face either a re-election next spring or can’t run for the same seats because of term limits. “This is something we need to do,” said Wiedner. Elected trustees targeted include Mac Pitrone, Jane Newberry, Ralph LoCascio, Howard Price and Margaret Peterson. The only leaders not being recalled are Lorrie Worthey and Tyler Stevens. The group hopes to soon start circulating petitions. The actual recall vote, if the campaign succeeds, won’t occur until the municipal election in April.

And in another petition effort, the group plans to file an initiative campaign which would force a proposed ordinance establishing a new town manager for Green Mountain Falls . It would also outline the duties for this job which would be decided by a vote of the citizens.

A majority of trustees have indicated a desire to have a town manager style of government and would hire current Public Works Director Rob McArthur into this slot.

Both decisions are staunchly opposed by the Concerned Citizens, by the mayor and Stevens, who contend that this action is being rushed. “You can’t do that overnight,” said Michael Lohman, a local resident and trustee candidate in the last election.

The next meeting of the Concerns Citizens is scheduled for Nov. 21 at the Black Bear restaurant in Green Mountain Falls , starting at 6:30 p.m.

The mayor doesn’t run the town.

The views of the Concerned Citizens group, though, have received a skeptical response by most veteran leaders, who have questioned how many of their members are full-time Green Mountain Falls residents. They also say that many of their statements are not true and are prompted by false postings on Facebook. For example, Newberry classified reports of the town trustees eliminating the marshal’s department as completely erroneous. 

Plus, Pitrone, in a recent letter submitted to El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, was critical of the actions of Mayor Lorrie Worthey, in representing the town when it came to law enforcement matters. He suggested that she overstepped her boundaries. He has indicated that the town’s reputation is at risk if this trend continues. “All board members and the mayor can and do is represent Green Mountain Falls . No one person can make decisions for the rest of the board,” said Pitrone in his letter to the sheriff. “Unfortunately, this statement given to the sheriff (following the resignation of Bradley) makes our town government look like idiots. What is especially disturbing to me is when the mayor of a town cannot talk with, represent Green Mountain Falls or conduct business with law enforcement agencies. What is going to happen the next time we have a disaster in our town and the mayor cannot represent or conduct business with law enforcement?” 

Pitrone was referring to comments by Lorrie Worthey, indicating that a coverage agreement between the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department and the town of Green Mountain Falls had already received the green light. The mayor had advised residents that the town’s law enforcement situation was completely handled.

But according to Pitrone, she didn’t have the authorization to oversee the town’s law enforcement.

In his letter, Pitrone formally asked for the El Paso County Sheriff’s support as the interim town liaison for the marshal’s office. In his request, Pitrone briefly outlined the resignation of Bradley and the fact that the department’s other officer, Susan Barnes, was on medical leave, and so the town didn’t have any law enforcement protection. Plus, he continued to criticize Worthey’s actions. “It should be made clear that no trustee, including the mayor, has been granted the authority by the board of trustees to conduct business or represent the town of Green Mountain Falls with your office or any other El Paso County office in association with law enforcement provision for Green Mountain Falls, with the exception of the marshal’s liaison,Trustee Howard Price, or myself in his absence.”

For months much friction has occurred between Worthey and Pitrone, who have engaged in shouting matches at local meetings.