by Rick Langenberg
Less than a month after getting the initial go-ahead for an unprecedented campaign aimed at ousting five elected leaders in Green Mountain Falls, leaders of a local recall effort are abandoning their plans—at least temporarily. But representatives of the Concerned Citizens Group of Green Mountain Falls may still lobby for key changes in the town’s political lineup during the next election scheduled for April 2014 in which three trustee seats and a mayoral spot are up for grabs. And to further gear up for that forthcoming vote, they may seek to recall two current leaders who won’t face re-election next year.
Judy Wiedner, a key leader of the Concerned Citizens group, told the trustees at last week’s regular meeting that their latest recall petition effort hit another snag due to some technical problems, such as the misspelling of one of the targeted council members. Instead of redoing the petitions and getting signatures again from registered voters who signed the original documents, Wiedner announced that the group was officially suspending its campaign until at least mid-October. At that time, they may seek to recall two trustees elected in 2012, Howard Price and Ralph LoCascio, whose terms don’t expire until 2016. If the group proceeds with new recall petitions and garners enough valid signatures, the fate of these seats, along four other leadership spots, will be determined in the regular election in April at no extra cost to the taxpayers.
By suspending their campaign and withdrawing their current petitions, Wiedner indicated the group can still achieve its objectives and save the expenses of the town having to foot the bill for an election. The majority of trustees targeted in the original ouster effort–Jane Newberry, Margaret Peterson and Mac Pitrone– face another election in April or can’t run for these seats due to term limits. And already, Pitrone has announced publicly plans to end his stint on the board. The only way Newberry can remain on the board is if she runs for mayor and is successfully elected to this position.
From the get-go, the Citizens group faced a tough deadline with its proposed recall due to the upcoming election. Critics of the effort, even those who supported their agenda, couldn’t understand why the group just didn’t wait until the next regular election. Plus, in the aftermath of a record-breaking flood, some citizens contended that the timing of the recall wasn’t good.
But Wiedner stressed that the group couldn’t delay their recall effort any longer due to constant turmoil occurring at GMF meetings and because of the way the majority of the trustees were running the police department, handling fiscal matters and dealing with citizens. The group was also critical of City Clerk Chris Frandina, who they believe is provided with way too much authority in running the town.
The recall committee leaders will still most likely maintain a high visibility at trustee forums. Last week, Dick Lackmond, another Concerned Citizens group leader, questioned the rules pertaining to GMF trustees missing meetings on a consistent basis. Although no names were mentioned, he was referring to certain council members the group has targeted who have been absent at a number of meetings. Plus, two meetings in the last six months resulted in walk-outs by several of the targeted leaders, who got upset with the way the mayor was conducting proceedings.
The suspension of the recall campaign, though, has raised an important financial issue. Summer resident Billie Harwood, who helped organize the Concerned Citizens’ initial meetings, recently gave the town a check for $5,000 to help foot the bill for the recall election costs. “I don’t want to see the town hurt,” said Harwood during a recent meeting, prior to when she left the area for the fall and winter. According to Wiedner, Harwood has told the committee that she still wants the town to use this money, but would like part of these funds to be used to help the police department.
The suspension of the campaign did surprise local political observers, including several trustees. The Concerned Citizens group hasn’t been shy about publicly announcing their intentions. They even organized a press conference to highlight the launching of their petition campaign, which was abruptly canceled due to the latest bombardment of flash floods. But with continual delays in finalizing their petitions, they were running against the clock if they wanted to have a recall vote prior to the spring election.
Time to come together
GMF Mayor Lorrie Worthey, who was one of two elected leaders not targeted by the campaign, described the suspension of the recall campaign as a good chance for town leaders to “reconnect and come together.” Worthey cited last week’s trustees meeting as extremely positive and a step in the right direction.
In addition, the mayor stated that she would like to see Green Mountain Falls and other local neighboring entities, such as Woodland Park and Manitou Springs, have “Mayor In My Backyard” open forums to discuss mutual issues of concern. “We would like to build connections and have an open house,” said the mayor. And with no recall campaign on the horizon, she believes the time may be ripe now for these exchanges, which may occur at the homes of elected leaders. The trustees welcomed this idea, but cautioned Worthey that public notifications would have to occur if the majority members of the respective city councils attend these gatherings, even if they occur at someone’s house or backyard.