Green Mountain Falls employee furor continues -Rick Langenberg

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Trustees suspend head clerk
Rick Langenberg

The town of Green Mountain Falls just can’t stay out of trouble, whether it’s from ticketing people for waterfowl feeding, spending too much money on meals or employee angst or removals.

Last week, Mary Duval, the city’s head clerk and treasurer for the last year and a half, was suspended and then escorted out of the town hall building. The move surprised some political observers, as Duval had been an advocate of changing the way the town operated from past practices to include more checks and balances. She was a key architect of new financial policies and procedures recently adopted by the board. “I was very surprised,” said former mayor pro tem Jane Newberry, who is part of a group of citizens and government watchdogs that attend virtually every meeting. “We had a good budget workshop prior to the meeting and Mary was there.”

Officials are mum about the action. But in recent weeks, Duval and the town government has been under scrutiny for questionable financial practices, such as bouncing checks and not balancing the books correctly. A number of questions were raised during a recent audit. Critics have contended that the town is headed for serious financial difficulties, if it continues current spending trends.

This decision was made following a lengthy executive session that extended for nearly two hours and was made at the request of Mayor Pro Tem Tyler Stevens, shortly after the regular meeting began. Steven also made the motion to ax Duval from her current position, saying that based on legal advice provided by attorney Matt Krob, Duval should be suspended as clerk/treasurer immediately. The board agreed with this motion unanimously. A brief recess then occurred to usher Duval from the meeting room to her office and then to her car, according to minutes compiled by Newberry.

The trustees didn’t comment on whether this was a temporary suspension or a permanent move. She will still get paid, even though she isn’t working for the town anymore, according to sources..

In the wake of Duval’s suspension, Renee Price, Duval’s main assistant since early 2015, was promoted to the position of Interim Clerk. Duval was the first clerk appointed since the resignation of veteran clerk, treasurer and former mayor Chris Frandina in the spring of 2014, when a vastly new board of trustees assumed power. Duval was picked as the head clerk and treasurer, following a well-publicized recruiting search for this position. Frandina was the sole clerk/treasurer and head administrator of the town government for years.

A meeting was scheduled last Wednesday between the mayor, Price and Krob to work out the details of the possible new arrangement at the clerk’s office.

Besides the shake-up in the clerk’s office, the town is once again experiencing employee shortages with its public works department. The issue of road maintenance was addressed at last week’s meeting, with former trustee Mac Pitrone questioning why the town is not allocating more funds towards capital projects. Pitrone cited the lake and Gazebo as a prime example, with the probable reality of $300,000 to $400,000 in needed improvements.

He and other civic leaders also believe the town is not putting enough resources into road work, with these costs now below 2010 levels, according to Pitrone.

Resident Cameron Thorne argued that the town’s equipment needs are under-funded and asked for a separate reserve account to deal with this problem.

Many citizens have complained that the quality of road service is below par, and with winter rearing its ugly head, these concerns have escalated. “The roads are in really bad shape,” said Newberry, in echoing the concerns of many residents.

The town’s public works department took a major hit, when the entire road crew quit in protest, following the elections of 2013. This led to a reorganization of this agency, and a lot more contract work with El Paso County.

In other public comments, resident Judith Wiedner complained about a misuse of a section of the Memorial Park area to accommodate a flag-raising ceremony for a particular family. She said this section of the park was dedicated to preserve the memory of Emmett Peters, who was killed in Vietnam.

Her request to not allow a certain ceremony in Memorial Park, and to have it occur somewhere else, didn’t get much response. Krob stated that this is a pubic area and that banning such a ceremony could be construed as limiting free speech.
Wiedner, though, complained that the ceremony, scheduled for Nov. 19, would spark much protest and give the town more negative publicity.

The town government is slated to finalize its 2016 budget on Nov. 30 and Dec 1, calling for close to $500,000 in expenditures. A public workshop will occur at 6 p.m. on both days, with the trustees expected to take final action on the budget in December.