Carbondale man says at least two Basalt council members to be targeted for recall | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale man says at least two Basalt council members to be targeted for recall

David Schoenberger speaks at a public meeting in Basalt in 2014. The Carbondale resident is at the center of the political storm in Basalt.

A Carbondale man claims a recall effort will be launched against at least two members of the Basalt Town Council if they don't resign.

David Schoenberger said at an Oct. 25 meeting that he and others, who he didn't identify, would try to recall Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle and Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer.

Schoenberger criticized Riffle at the meeting for sending an email to other board members to lobby them against altering the town's regulations on marijuana. He claimed several points she made were outright lies.

"Jenn, you're a liar! You should admit it. You may be a good person but shouldn't be trusted. You should be recalled," Schoenberger said.

“Katie and I were elected by a very wide margin by the general populace.”

— Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle

He added that he will use the public comment period at future meetings to unveil additional emails that he claims show Riffle and Schwoerer violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law because of contact with board members outside of a noticed meeting.

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"We're going for it," Schoenberger said. "Every single time I walk in here, I will do it over and over again."

While pointing at Riffle he said, "This person, if you don't ask her to resign, we're going to recall her for sure." Turning his attention to Schwoerer he added, "And you're the lowest hanging fruit next."

Councilman Bernie Grauer intervened and said, "We've heard enough threats. I think your time is up."

Schoenberger responded he wasn't making threats, just telling the truth. At that point, Mayor Pro Tem Gary Tennenbaum cut him off.

View the entire six-minute Grassroots TV exchange here (it starts at 23:08):

Some saw personal attack

Some observers in the room, both on and off the council, felt Schoenberger crossed a line of government criticism into a personal attack.

Bill Kane, a former Basalt town manager, was in the chambers for a matter later on the agenda. When his item was called, Kane started by telling the board that they "didn't deserve" that type of behavior.

"I'm just sort of saddened to see the vitriol and nature of personal attacks," Kane said.

Ken Ransford, who was also at the Oct. 25 meeting to make a public comment, said he was taken aback by the personal nature of Schoenberger's criticism of council members. He sent an email Monday to his associates in Basalt describing the incident.

Riffle said this week she doesn't want to prevent criticism of herself or other members of the council, but she wants the meetings to retain civility. She doesn't feel that happened at the Oct. 25 meeting.

"It crossed over to a personal attack," she said.

Riffle said she has received several emails from Schoenberger that she regards as personal attacks.

An Oct. 4 email from Schoenberger to Riffle included the line "you are a miserable example of a legislator." That was the day of a council meeting and Schoenberger indicated he would be targeting her. "Let's enjoy the fish fry tonight," he wrote.

Schoenberger is working with a Boulder man who is trying to buy a building on Midland Avenue in Basalt for use as a marijuana dispensary. Town regulations must be changed to allow the building to be used for a dispensary. That's why the marijuana issue is important to him. He submitted a Colorado Open Records request seeking Riffle's emails from April 5, the day she got elected, through Aug. 25. While looking over that information, he saw Riffle's email lobbying other council members to resist changing the pot rules.

Riffle has acknowledged violating the Colorado Open Meetings Law. She has recused herself from voting on the issue.

Schoenberger continues to raise the issue. Riffle said she feels like she has been subjected to psychological threats from Schoenberger. Nevertheless, she said she has no intention to resign.

"Katie and I were elected by a very wide margin by the general populace," Riffle said.

Schwoerer declined to comment.

Schoenberger declined by email to comment for this story.

First declaration of recall

Schoenberger is the first member of a Basalt government watchdog group to publicly declare a recall will be pursued. Other members of the group have made references to a recall on the Basalt Community Page on Facebook. An email string obtained by The Aspen Times also shows members of the group laying out their strategy for pursuing a recall.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt wasn't able to attend the Oct. 25 meeting because of a dental emergency. It is uncertain if she will be targeted by a recall, as some of the social media comments have suggested.

This isn't the first time Schoenberger claimed he would pursue a recall. In November 2012, seven months into Whitsitt's first term as mayor, he said he was launching a recall effort against her. He never pursued the effort.

Schoenberger was also part of a recall effort in 2000 aimed at then-Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland. That effort failed because of flaws in the recall petition.

As a Carbondale resident, he would be unable to sign a recall petition against Basalt elected officials, but he could circulate a petition and help with organization. It isn't unprecedented for people to get involved with politics outside their town of residence. Allyn Harvey, a former Carbondale councilman, is helping the group trying to get voters to approve the Basalt river park ballot questions in Tuesday's election.

In order to force a recall election against Whitsitt, Riffle and Schwoerer, organizers would have to collect 274 signatures of registered voters in the town — an amount equal to 25 percent of the votes cast in the last election. A record number of votes, 1,099, were cast in the April 5 municipal election.

scondon@aspentimes.com