WP City Council Recent Decisions Raising Question Marks

TMJ News Files CORA Request; City Stalling On Answers

Trevor Phipps

For several weeks,  a number of local residents have questioned the actions of the Woodland Park City Council, especially when it comes to appointments and what some critics say are power plays exerted by a new growing majority.

As a result, and due to the request of many citizens, TMJ News has filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to seek answers for a spree of questions raised by local residents and business owners regarding the legality and ethics of certain actions. To date, the city has been less than cooperative in fulfilling this request.

This showdown on missing information could reach a head on August 4.

During  an earlier meeting in July,  three new Downtown Development Association (DDA) board members were appointed, but the council didn’t interview any of the new members or take public comment on the subject.


People have also questioned the fact that Arden Weatherford, owner of BierWerks, was appointed to the board after he sued the DDA in the recent past. Tony Perry, chief executive officer of the Park State Bank & Trust, has spoken against the DDA on several occasions, and he was also appointed to the board.


Many critics have wondered why council went into a surprise executive session to address a possible conflict of interest with a former DDA appointee, and that they may have given the designee the boot just  because of political differences. Some say that the discussion was legally required to be public.


The drama stated to unfold when the council decided to appoint Catherine Nakai to city council without opening up an application process. During that meeting Mayor Pro Tem Hilary Labarre said that she discussed the move with all of the council members, but Councilman Robert Zuluaga claimed he was not part of the conversation.


Then at another special meeting, Zuluaga was ousted from his position as the council liaison to the DDA. This move sparked concerns from residents that the council is trying to completely dismantle the DDA board.


The first time concerns about council actions were made public was when DDA board member Elijah Murphy addressed council during the meeting on July 15. Murphy’s main claim was that council violated sunshine laws that mandate certain government proceedings be open to the public.


Murphy read state laws and claimed that the council broke the law by going into an executive session. “I witnessed some stuff during the last session and tonight that places huge questions in my mind,” Murphy said. “Council simply moved to appoint without discussion, without comment, without nothing. It was if the decisions had already been made somewhere else and not in a public meeting. So, my question is when and where did council meet and where can I access the recording of tonight’s appointment? To those who watched it, it was crystal clear that the plan was in place and decisions were made outside of public forum by more than two people.”


After several people expressed their concerns with what has been happening with city council TMJ News filed an information request via the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). The request asked for e-mails and text messages between council members and any that had to do with the DDA, DDA appointments, or Catherine Nakai’s appointment.


After 72 hours, city officials said that they needed more clarification to get an estimate of how much the request would cost. TMJ News then asked for all council e-mails over a month period. The city responded and said that they needed more details and keywords to search through the e-mails because the request was too large.


Last week, Zuluaga told a local news station that he too believed the council violated the state’s sunshine laws when they appointed Nakai without consulting him.

However, Labarre has been adamant to the fact that she consulted all council members prior to Nakai’s appointment. She has also said that everything the council has done was legal and within the scope of their authority.

The issue could get raised during a forthcoming council meeting on August 4.