Silverthorne council in uproar over Lowe’s vote
September 7, 2010
SILVERTHORNE – Hard feelings have surfaced in Silverthorne in recent days, as the town council prepares to vote on a final development plan for a Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse tonight.
Some council members have concerns that potential conflicts of interest could jeopardize the integrity of tonight’s votes. Councilmember Dave Anderson, whom some council members believed could have a conflict of interest, is angry about how the issue was explored. Nevertheless, he said on Tuesday afternoon he planned to recuse himself from tonight’s votes on the Lowe’s application.
Anderson owns a minority interest in Neils Lunceford Nursery, whose business could be negatively impacted by the proposed Lowe’s garden center. He said he “had intended to give Lowe’s very fair consideration in the issues they had before the council.”
Town attorney Jerry Dahl said he reviewed conflict-of-interest issues with the council at its Aug. 11 meeting – the first time the current council would vote on elements of Lowe’s application – and none of its members disclosed any potential conflicts.
Anderson brought up his ownership stake in Neils Lunceford at a subsequent council worksession.
“I in no way tried to conceal that interest,” Anderson said.
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Some time afterward, three council members approached Dahl for clarification on the conflict-of-interest rules in the Silverthorne Town Charter, concerned two other council members, including Anderson, could have conflicts.
“We wanted to be clear on what the charter says, what that means, and what kind of position that would put us in,” Councilmember Ann-Marie Sandquist said. “This happens all the time when questions arise. You call the town attorney and ask – that’s why we have these guys as resources.”
After receiving the requested information from Dahl, the three council members shared it with the entire council.
Anderson said late last week a fellow council member approached him, suggesting that he may, indeed, have a conflict of interest that could merit recusal on votes involving the Lowe’s proposal.
Anderson said he wishes the issue had been raised at a public meeting, rather than in private conversations. Sandquist said there was no desire to shine the spotlight on Anderson or single him out. Anderson said he resents not getting a heads-up on the inquiry from the town attorney or town manager Kevin Batchelder. And in a recent article in the online news blog Summit County Citizens Voice, Anderson said he believed Batchelder and Dahl were attempting to influence the outcome of the Lowe’s proposal. Batchelder and Dahl deny the claims.
“The accusations in the Summit Voice article are not true and are not consistent with the facts,” Batchelder said. “Town staff has not been involved in any discussions between the council and the attorney involving conflicts of interest, and I have not been involved in those discussions.
“I’m astonished and disappointed that he’s made these untrue allegations. These sorts of statements are harmful to my professional reputation, and I’m very upset and very concerned he’s chosen to do this,” Batchelder added.
Dahl, too, disagreed with Anderson’s statements in the Summit Voice, calling them “completely false.”
Sandquist came to Batchelder’s and Dahl’s defense Tuesday in a written statement:
“The accusations made in the Summit County Voice’s commentary titled ‘Back room politics before Lowe’s vote in Silverthorne’ are completely unfounded and without merit,” Sandquist wrote. “Several Silverthorne council members, including myself, requested a meeting with our town attorney, Jerry Dahl, for advice concerning Town Charter Section 3.9, titled ‘Conflicts of Interest.’ These discussions with the town attorney were due to council members’ concerns and were initiated only at the request of those council members. The Silverthorne town manager, Kevin Batchelder, was not involved.”
SDN reporter Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.