Breckenridge Town Council member resigns over perceived conflict of interest in hotel project | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge Town Council member resigns over perceived conflict of interest in hotel project

Effective immediately, Breckenridge Councilman Mike Dudick has resigned from his position on town council, citing his company's continued business with the town and saying the perception of conflicts of interest has become more than he's willing to shoulder.

Dudick's resignation was announced Tuesday morning after he gave his peers on town council a heads up the day before. With two years remaining in his term, council will appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of it within the next 60 days, said Mayor Eric Mamula.

Explaining his exit, Dudick emphasized that he ran for office to help Breckenridge. Given recent developments, however, he worries "the optics" surrounding a potential four-star hotel development at the base of Peak 8, in addition to other business he has or could have with the town, might tarnish what he originally set out to do.

"My focus in running was always to be part of the solutions and forward visioning regarding parking, transit and workforce housing," Dudick wrote in a letter announcing his departure.

"While I feel like during my time on Council we have made tremendous progress on all three of those fronts, unfortunately, at times it has been necessary for me to recuse myself from participation in many of these discussions because of conflicting private business matters," he continued.

As the CEO of Breckenridge Grand Vacations, Dudick has repeatedly had to remove himself from discussions involving the hotel, which have spilled over into other town business, such as parking or the price of transferrable density rights, since the potential hotel deal surfaced last fall.

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The recusals have meant Dudick has to sit in a hallway outside council chambers, completely removed from the conversation, while representatives of his company have carried the load. So far, they have been unsuccessful getting council to green-light the project.

Dudick conceded that it's been "difficult to not be a party to those discussions," especially since he could offer a valuable voice in them. By resigning, he will be freed up to join the conversation.

"I'll be on the outside just like anybody else making an application," he said. "So I will be able to participate to the fullest extent that the process allows."

At the same time, it's not just the hotel driving his decision, Dudick added.

He sees "very important issues on the horizon" on many fronts. Because of his position in the business community, however, Dudick feels like he would have to continue recusing himself from many of those discussions. Furthermore, he doesn't think it's fair to leave council with only six voting members, instead of seven.

"He can be the guy presenting, and it leaves the council with the opportunity not to be seen as doing something for a fellow councilman," Mamula explained of Dudick's decision. "Really, in the end, I will tell you it is all about the optics. I think Mike has been an excellent councilman, and I think he has been fair."

One of the issues apart from the hotel that Dudick referenced as problematic for him going forward on council is BGV's efforts to get into workforce housing.

Workforce housing projects often involve private developers working with the town in a variety of capacities, and Dudick said it's important people don't think he's getting any kind of preferential treatment for these projects.

"This is not going to go away anytime soon in terms of the issues that would arise that I would need to recuse myself," he said. "I don't know exactly what they might be, but there would be more coming."

Dudick maintained he's never compromised himself by putting his business interests above town matters in his role as a councilman, but "the optics" became enough by itself for him to step aside, Dudick said.

"Even by following the policy of recusal on particular matters, I realize that many in our community could still perceive my 'inside' position as a conflict of interest," he wrote in the letter. "Because of this, I am resigning in the spirit of putting our community first."

Dudick said that no one — not any other elected officials, nor town staff — has ever suggested to him that he resign. Instead, this decision was entirely his and one he came to after careful consideration.

"It was a tough decision personally as I have thoroughly enjoyed my six years serving our community of Breckenridge on town council," he said. "However, I am committed to remain involved in community discussions as a private citizen and be available to help from the 'outside' often and whenever called upon, as I love this town and am proud to call Breckenridge my home."

Dudick was first elected to public office in April 2010. He decided not to seek re-election in 2014, as his wife, Anna, and son had moved to Denver and Dudick was commuting back and forth at the time.

But Dudick's business partner and co-founder of Breckenridge Grand Vacations Rob Millisor died on Oct. 8, 2015. Millisor's death led Dudick to return to Breckenridge full-time so he could focus on the company. With his return, Dudick decided to run again for council in 2016.

"I love Breckenridge and feel humble to have been twice elected to town council," he said. "I find it incredibly fulfilling to be part of such a fantastic and diverse community."

Looking back, Dudick said he leaves his post feeling good about what's been accomplished during his time on council, including increasing the town's lodging tax and dedicating that money to marketing through the Breckenridge Tourism Organization and for leading the charge to convert the century-old Colorado Mountain College building into the South Branch of the Summit County Library and Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center.

"The community as a whole did a great job with that," Dudick said, adding that he's quite pleased with what's become of Prospector Park, which for more than a quarter-century existed only as a parking lot at 112 N. Main St.

For his part, Dudick helped convince council to spend the necessary money from the open-space fund to buy the lot and turn it into the park. It opened Nov. 11, 2015, on Veterans Day, along with the unveiling of "Tom's Baby," a larger-than-life bronze sculpture featuring an 11.3-pound gold nugget found in July 1887 on a hill outside Breckenridge. The sculpture was made possible by a donation from Mike and Anna Dudick.

In his second term, Dudick said he's seen great progress with the three biggest reasons he decided to run for another term — parking, transit and workforce housing — and he's happy to check off those boxes, or at least see the town moving forward in big ways in those fields.

Mamula said that because the 2018 April council election was uncontested, one added wrinkle to filling Dudick's seat will be there isn't a pool of candidates who finished as the fourth or fifth-highest vote-getters to choose from. Still, Dudick and Mamula were both confident council will appoint a capable replacement.

On Mike Dudick’s resignation…

The following statements from Breckenridge public officials were offered after Councilman Mike Dudick resigned from his position Tuesday.

“He is a magnificent council person. I can’t say enough about how he handles himself, his grasp of the issues and his love of this community. It’s unfortunate he had to resign to fulfill his business wishes, and he will be missed by the community. I don’t think everybody realizes the firepower he brought to council meetings, but it was exceptional.”

— Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula

I will miss working with Mike on town council. He was both a colleague and friend. Mike is incredibly smart and offered valuable expertise on many issues. What makes our council unique is our diverse makeup, and Mike brought valuable and notable viewpoints to our group that will be sorely missed.

— Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence

“I had the pleasure to serve with Mike for six years of my eight years on council. He was always thoughtful, creative and thinks outside the box. As a major developer in town, he always had to balance his roles as a council member and as a professional. I do not envy him for having to do that, but in my view, he did it with complete integrity and the best interest of our town at heart. He was an asset to town council and I’ sorry to hear he has resigned. But I certainly respect his reasoning and decision.”

— Former Councilman Mark Burke