Trouble in Paradise, Part II

GMF Trails Leader Comes Out Swinging; Accuse Trustees of Unethical Action

Town Struggling to Meet ADA Website Requirements

Rick Langenberg

the quaint town of Green Mountain Falls is on a roll regarding local recreation, trails and art exhibits.

But when it comes to head volunteer/trustee relations and advisory committees, the town still find itself standing on murky grounds, with occasional skirmishes commanding political center stage and testing tempers at local forums.

A fairly upbeat opening-year meeting in GMF took a tough side route, when planning commission member and trails advocate Rocco Blasi addressed the board at their 2024 inaugural session. Blasi, who hasn’t shied away from criticizing certain GMF town policies in the past, lashed out at the trustees for their 3-2 decision to fire Planning Commission Chairman Lamar Mathews. Moreover, he expressed outrage at the “no comment” verdict, especially when they were dismissing a chairman he described as outstanding.

Blasi hinted that their decision was strictly personal and questioned the ethics of the majority board members in taking this action. While this action couldn’t be viewed as illegal, Blasi maintained that it was highly unethical.

He contended that Mathews’ role as chairman was well-received by other members of the commission, none of whom he said have stepped up to now fill this role. “I find it inconceivable. This is a real concern,” said Blasi.

He indicated that this sends a troubling message and opens up wounds regarding the treatment of volunteers who devote hours in serving the community. Blasi suggested through his comments that if volunteers don’t agree with the current cadre of leaders, they may get thrown the door.

“She (Lamar Mathews) is a person of integrity and high character, said Blasi, who besides his role with the planning commission, serves as leader of the Friends of Ute Pass Trails group. He cited the strong amount of work Mathews put into the chairmanship role and described her as a true professional.

“You created a problem that did not exist,” said Blasi.

And in a final attack, he stated that the three trustees who voted to oust Mathews from her chairman role—Todd Dixon, Sunde King and Katharine Guthrie, should resign from their board positions and join the planning commission, since they believed they could do a better job than Mathews.  The other two trustees on the board, Nick Donzello and Sean Ives supported the application of Lamar Mathews for another two-year term.

Blasi didn’t get any response from any of the trustees and left the meeting immediately after making his comments. Following Blasi’s attack, fellow commissioner Ann Esch expressed regret on Zoom with the tone of these statements. “I am sorry he said those things,” said Esch. Esch has supported the board’s current handling of its volunteer committees, and has remained a big supporter of the current staff.

At issue last month were recent 2024 appointments to a variety of advisory committees in Green Mountain Falls. Mathews fell short by one tally from holding onto her chairmanship and continuing for a two-year term.

In the past, she had gained a reputation for criticizing certain town policies, such as the town manager form of government.  Mathews had sought to have the town return to the more traditional trustee liaison system, instead of having a more centralized structure with the town manager calling the shots. She also wanted the planning commission to take a more aggressive role in handling certain planning duties to help save money.

Last summer, a few sparks ignited during a presentation, led by Mathews, dealing with strategizing the town’s master plan.  In this presentation, concerns were relayed regarding the town’s commitment to road improvements, fire mitigation and in improving transparency. Some comments made at the presentation rubbed certain trustee members and the town staff the wrong way.

At the same time, some concerns may have persisted over Mathews’ meeting residency requirements. To serve on the planning commission, a person must reside in GMF, according to current statues. But the rules don’t say if a person must reside in GMF permanently.  In her application, the former planning commission chief did provide an insurance card and utilities payment voucher. Most applicants, meanwhile, provided voting documentation by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office

It is unclear of the political ramifications of the Mathews; dismissal situation.

This April, town voters in GMF will choose a mayor and two trustees. Dixon has already indicated he plans to run for  mayor again.

Meeting ADA Requirements

The relations between trustees and volunteers is not the only issue gaining more traction in GMF these days.

At its most recent forum, a state mandate regarding ADA requirements for town government web sites got the attention of the elected leaders.  “This is a huge hit to our town,” announced Dixon, who described the new rules, which go into effect in late July, as another stated unfunded mandate.

In essence, government websites, including all the documents provided, must be completely ADA accessible, especially by those with visual impairments. Dixon stated that the rules could seriously impact the town’s online transparency.

If documents can’t be made to meet the requirements through updated technology, the possibility exists they could have to be removed from the website, or made into paper format, or else the town could face big fines, equating to $3,500 per offense.

The mayor worries that the rules could force the town to not have the level of archival material that now exists.

“We are taking this very seriously,” said Shelly Scott-Nash, an expert in this field who is helping the town in dealing with this issue. “The PDF documents are the elephant in the room,” said Scott-Nash.

She stated that many small municipalities don’t realize the impacts of this new state mandate. And if they haven’t started to address the situation, they could face difficulty in complying with the new ADA rules by this summer’s deadline.

This is the second time in recent months town leaders have grappled over this issue.