by Rick Langenberg:
When a new group of elected leaders took office in Green Mountain Falls in mid-April, they vowed to make changes in the running of the town government.
Well, a month and a half later, they got their wish with nearly all local workers quitting, including the complete public works department, two trustees and two planning commissioners and now practically the entire clerk’s office. According to sources, some of these resignations are attributed to a drastic changing of the leadership guard and concerns over new policies.
The resignation trail has taken another turn with Chris Frandina and her main assistant, Betty Van Scoten two officials with a combined track record of 45 years with the GMF government. Both decided to step down at the end of this week.
The latest resignations were recently announced by local leaders, and could have a drastic impact on the running of the city.
Frandina has held the city clerk/treasurer position for 27 years and was regarded as the administrative arm of the town government. Besides her role as head clerk, she previously served as mayor for six years and was a trustee for two years and also served as a planning commissioner. In addition, she has held leadership roles with the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments and the Colorado Municipal League. Frandina has been a resident of Green Mountain Falls for 40 years.
Her decision to step down didn’t surprise many government observers, but the timing was a jolt for some.
For weeks, speculation abounded that Frandina may be leaving within the next couple of months. In one of their first moves since taking office, the new board of trustees, with the re-election of Mayor Lorrie Worthey and selection of three new trustees, voted to strip Frandina of her duties as treasurer and voted to rehire Tim Bradley as marshal.
This action outraged previous leaders, including former mayor pro tem Jane Newberry, who referred to the new board as one that wanted to get rid of all local employees. Bradley and Frandina had never seen eye-to-eye during his previous stint with the city, and some viewed the marshals rehiring decision as the final straw in maintaining a peace pact between the new leaders and the current staff.
The long-time clerk and treasurer, however, wouldn?t comment on her resignation and noted that she had planned to retire prior to the completion of the new town hall. “I had wanted to turn over the new town hall facility to a new clerk,” said Frandina.
The GMF clerk said she appreciated the support she has received from local residents over the last several decades. “I go out with the love of our community,” said Frandina.
The clerk also commented that she appreciates the many friendships she has made through her involvement with the Green Mountain Falls government. Also, she valued the strong level of “autonomy” she was given in her role as clerk/treasurer. “I really take that to heart” said the clerk, who viewed this as a level of confidence among residents and former board members regarding the job she performed.
Frandina says she intends to remain in Green Mountain Falls and will pursue other opportunities
Frandina is lauded by many long-time leaders for her professionalism and detailed knowledge of municipal government affairs, elections and the Green Mountain Falls community. She also was forced to grapple with a lean budget, while trying to maintain current services. The last five years have proven to be quite a test for the town financially due to declining revenues.
At the same time, Frandina had her share of critics, including members of the Concerned Citizens of Green Mountain Falls group, and a few local business owners. They contended that she exerted way too much power and put some people through too many rigorous regulations. Several years ago, a petition to oust Frandina was started by a local business owner, but no action was taken due to many signatures originating from out-of-town residents.
Besides Frandina, the town also will be losing Van Scoten, who worked for the town for nearly 20 years. Although not maintaining quite as high a profile as Frandina, the deputy clerk often served as the main face of the office.
The latest resignations will provide a further challenge for the new board of trustees, who have decided to take a more hands-on role in the running of the local government. Recently, board meetings have gone on for more than five hours.
In April, the town’s entire public works and street maintenance crew walked out, following the resignation of interim town manager and pubic works director Rob McArthur. Since then, the town has temporarily contracted out some of these duties to El Paso County. In addition, the town received resignations from two trustees and two members of the planning commission.
The clerk’s office resignations, though, could provide more of a challenge for the new leaders. Plus, the town is moving full-speed ahead with plans for an $800,000 town hall facility. A ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for June 7.