Campaign rhetoric continues in S’thorne council meeting
SILVERTHORNE – Mayor Lou DelPiccolo’s second term in office started with a short but startling jolt Wednesday. Minutes after he was sworn in, he publicly confronted recent mayoral opponent and Councilmember Sheila Groneman about language used in her political campaign.
While the exchange lasted only about a minute, it clearly took Groneman and town staffers by surprise.
“I would encourage Councilmember Groneman to apologize to staff for recent comments,” DelPiccolo said, referring to a letter Groneman wrote to the Ten Mile Times.
DelPiccolo dropped the matter after Councilmember Howard Hallman questioned the appropriateness of the forum.
The meeting then continued as usual.
In the May 1 issue of the Ten Mile Times, Groneman wrote:
“I am concerned about the number of lawsuits the town is involved in. I am concerned about backroom politics. If elected mayor, I can assure you that the town will not have to bring in an outside mediator to ensure that the mayor and manager are communicating.”
Thursday, DelPiccolo said he believes the letter insults not only him, but also the staff.
“The backroom deals, unethical conduct, and the inability to communicate without a mediator, none of those things could have been done by one person,” he said. “It is not a vote of confidence in our staff. I think that since she went out and launched this tirade, she obviously has the obligation to assess what it entailed. I think it should be obvious, even to the blind, that something like that goes well beyond what she meant to say about me.”
Groneman said Thursday she was disheartened, but undaunted, by DelPiccolo’s request.
“He was out of line and it was inappropriate,” she said. “I’m not going to be intimidated by this. I wasn’t going to say anything last night because I think it was an inappropriate time, but I don’t think people think that kind of personal behavior is OK. If it continues to happen, I will have to address it. Last night was tense enough. We needed to get on with business. They didn’t need to see Lou and I scrapping in front of the public.”
She also suggested his demand for an apology was a moot point.
“Is staff offended? Have they confirmed that?” she asked.
Indeed, department heads in Silverthorne said Thursday that while Groneman’s letter didn’t go unnoticed, they weren’t offended. Having said that, Town Manager Kevin Batchelder defended himself against some of the statements made in the letter.
“The accusation of back-room politics is groundless,” he said. “It stings a little for someone to say there are backroom politics. The mayor cannot act alone, so that implies he’s acting with other people.
“There has never been any issue of communication between myself and the mayor, or any council members, including Sheila. If that’s a reference to a predecessor … I guess I’m concerned that most of the readers would assume it’s the current regime, and that is something that affects my professional reputation.
“I would say this has been a hard-fought campaign, and the town council may need to do some work together to heal any divisions that may have been caused.
“It is tense, and they need to address that, but that’s an internal council issue. Staff is fully prepared to continue to serve each and every council member.”
Other department heads echoed Batchelder’s thoughts.
“During election campaigns, things get said,” said Community Development Director Mark Leidal.”Do I think she owes me an apology? No, not necessary. There was some concern, but I wasn’t offended.”
“Some clarity might have made it a little easier for us, but I’m not taking it personally,” said Finance Director Donna Braun.
Batchelder confirmed the town is involved in three lawsuits: one filed by former RiverCenter developer Doug Salter regarding an alleged breach of contract, a second filed by land owner Bob Wyler about another allegedly breached contract and a third code enforcement-related suit about private property on Tanglewood Drive.
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