The group formed to represent remaining residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park has lost its most visible leader and possibly the attorney it hired less than two weeks ago.
Ralph Vazquez, who has identified himself as the organizer and moderator of Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt, submitted a letter to town officials Tuesday night that suggested the attorney for the group had been let go.
The letter from Vazquez to attorney Ryan Kalamaya said he was being terminated so that the group could continue direct communication and negotiations with the Basalt town government staff. The letter said there was “implied litigation” against the town by Kalamaya, which hindered negotiations with town staff. The letter also said “we” want to focus on obtaining deed-restricted employee housing by working with the town.
A copy of the letter was given to the Basalt Town Council, town attorney and town manger by Basalt resident David Schoenberger, who has told The Aspen Times he is an advocate for the Pan and Fork residents.
Vazquez was at Town Hall at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s council meeting and said he was unable to arrive earlier. He said he authorized Schoenberger to release the letter to the town.
The letter refers to “we” several times, so it sounds as though multiple members of the organization decided to fire Kalamaya. However, Vazquez confirmed that he was acting on his own. He said he wasn’t sure how other members of the group would feel about his actions.
Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt was formed by nine remaining families in the Pan and Fork representing more than 40 people, according to earlier comments by Vazquez and other organizers. The town government is relocating residents for a public-works project and offering them financial-resettlement packages ranging from $15,000 to $25,000. The members of the Workers group objected to the settlements and have said they wanted replacement housing offered to them.
They also asked the town government on Dec. 9 to provide them with $10,000 so they could get legal advice on their rights. A nonprofit organization called the Colorado Immigrants Right Coalition is working with the Workers group and provided funding to hire Kalamaya’s firm two weeks ago.
Sophia Clark, a field organizer for the Colorado Immigrants Right Coalition, said members of the Workers group were unaware that Vazquez was firing Kalamaya.
“They don’t know anything about it,” she said. “As of right now, Ralph is not speaking for the group.”
Clark declined to comment on Schoenberger’s role with Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt. She said members of the group planned to gather to discuss how to proceed. Vazquez will be invited to the meeting, she said.
Kalamaya said Wednesday he was informed Tuesday by Schoenberger that he had been terminated from representing Vazquez.
“Of course, David Schoenberger isn’t my client,” he said. He hadn’t talked directly to Vazquez.
Kalamaya said he hoped to get clarification soon from Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt on whether they are his clients.
Scanlon said he was uncertain whether the group wants to pursue negotiations as individuals or if they are being represented by Kalamaya. “I have no earthly clue,” he said.
“I have no earthly clue.”
Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon on the status of Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt