The Aspen Times Newsmakers of 2014: Honorable mentions
December 30, 2014
Surgeon shake-up at Aspen Valley Hospital
Aspen Valley Hospital's termination of an exclusive provider contract with Dr. Bill Rodman, which gave the physician authority over the hospital's surgery department since 1993, caused a rift in the community in 2014, with residents packing a board room in May to protest the decision.
But a resolution was hammered out that gave Rodman, who was notified in December 2013 that his deal would be terminated on June 30, a one-year leave of absence from the hospital. He can return in July as a private surgeon with hospital privileges, but without the subsidies he previously enjoyed.
The hospital also hatched an agreement with Surgical Specialists of Colorado to provide surgical services. Two new surgeons — Drs. Les Fraser and Joe Livengood — were brought in to handle the workload. Livengood began July 1, and Fraser started in the fall.
Rodman was vocal at hospital board meetings and placed an ad in Aspen's newspapers. "I have truly enjoyed the privilege of caring for and being a part of the Aspen community over these last 21 years," Rodman said in an advertisement. "For multiple reasons, I must pursue a different path."
And at a May board meeting, Rodman said, "Most of what has happened has happened behind closed doors, out of the public eye. In the past year, I have found myself being slowly pushed out of Aspen's health care community by a series of decisions made by the hospital."
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— Rick Carroll
Snowmass Village Town Council
The Snowmass Village Town Council made headlines throughout 2014 as it dealt with some particularly important issues while also struggling with dissent among its members.
In January, the council was close to making a decision on whom to hire as its permanent town manager when it became apparent that the elected officials were staunchly divided over whether to extend an offer to interim town manager Gary Suiter, who told them he didn't want to work for a council that didn't unanimously stand behind him. After opening a public discussion about the offer, the council members — led by the majority of Mayor Bill Boineau, Councilwoman Markey Butler and Councilman Fred Kucker — went behind closed doors and worked out a contract with Suiter that would keep him in the position indefinitely as an independent contractor and not a full-time hire.
After an inquiry by the Snowmass Sun, a vote on the contract was put on a public meeting agenda, and the feud among the elected officials was brought to light: first when they voted 3-2 to keep Suiter on, and then in the coming months when Councilman Chris Jacobson, in the minority with Councilman Jason Haber, continued to call for the reopening of the search for a full-time candidate.
Finally, the council members reached a compromise. They conducted more interviews with another finalist for the job, Clint Kinney, of Fruita, and in June voted to give him the full-time job. Kinney started in September.
While the council worked together more collegial on most other issues, the board was again divided into the same two factions while reviewing a request to extend the vested rights on the stalled Base Village project. That request eventually passed, 3-2, but not without more hard feelings: Jacobson alleged that conversations Kucker and Butler had with Aspen Skiing Co. representatives about the application qualified as ex parte communication because Skico is partnering with the Base Village developer to build a hotel there.
The bitter divide may be over now, though, as a new council was elected in November. Haber, Butler and former Councilman Arnold Mordkin ran for mayor, but it was Butler, who appeals to multiple groups and demographics in the village, who pulled out ahead. Boineau and residents Bill Madsen and Bob Sirkus ran for the two open council seats. Madsen and Sirkus clenched victories, which some residents view as a sign that the village is ready for some fresh blood in its leadership.
The new board — which recently appointed resident Alyssa Shenk to Butler's vacated seat — has so far been marked with a tone of courtesy and cooperation, even while continuing to deal with tough issues like Base Village and the controversial dog-sledding business Krabloonik, which leases land from the town. Only time will tell what the council will make news for in 2015.
— Jill Beathard
Basalt's Pan and Fork saga resolved
The tumultuous saga of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park in Basalt came to an end in 2014 with the removal and assisted relocation of most of the residents by the end of winter and the removal of the trailers by the end of April.
The town government reached financial relocation agreements with the residents of the 38 homes, and hired a contractor to remove or demolish trailers that weren't in shape to move.
Town Manager Mike Scanlon said Assistant Town Manager Judi Tippetts put in an incredible amount of time and effort to try to find financial assistance and alternative housing for the families that lived there. She often worked into the evening and on weekends to meet with the residents, most of whom were blue-collar and Latino. The effort was completed in about six months.
The mobile home park site was identified years ago as at risk from flooding. The town government strived to move the residents "out of harm's way" but didn't have the tools to do so. Scanlon identified the funding and masterminded the effort, but it received mixed reviews. About 10 families living in the trailer park resisted leaving because they said they would never find housing so cheap. They also objected to being displaced. Some observers contended the working-class residents were being unfairly treated.
Scanlon countered that many residents landed in housing where they will be better off in the long run. He estimated that one-third to one-half of residences were able to buy new residences. Roughly 90 percent of those families found housing between Lazy Glen Mobile Home Park and El Jebel Mobile Home Park, he said.
A contractor transformed the site during the summer and fall. The half closest to the Roaring Fork River was landscaped for a civic park and the riverbed was altered to ease the flooding threat.
The half of the property closest to Two Rivers Road was raised and sculpted to remove it from the flood plain so that it can be developed. That portion of the old trailer park is owned by the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. The nonprofit has a contract with a development for possible construction of a hotel.
— Scott Condon
Aspen bartender convicted of felony sexual assault
Even as longtime Aspen bartender Peter B. Nardi was being led away from the Pitkin County Courthouse and back to jail following his July 14 sentencing hearing on a April rape conviction, he maintained his innocence.
"I'm innocent; I'm an innocent man," Nardi shouted to an Aspen Times reporter who was snapping his photograph.
District Judge Gail Nichols gave Nardi, 52, a 15-years-to-life sentence for his April 18 jury conviction on felony sexual assault and five other charges.
The 15-year combined sentence on six charges included an "indeterminate sentence" of 11 years to life on the sexual-assault charge alone. A 1998 state law that applies to convicted sexual offenders offers them a choice of getting treatment or staying incarcerated for life.
Nardi won't be eligible for parole until he completes a number of stipulations, including an admission of guilt and completion of an intensive prison program aimed at rehabilitating sex offenders.
Co-prosecutor Jason Slothouber said he thought the sentence was appropriate in light of the jury's verdict "and the really sadistic nature of the offense. I think that justice was served."
The Texas woman who brought charges against him — his girlfriend of several months from August 2012 to April 2013 — testified that Nardi became increasingly jealous and controlling prior to the last week of their relationship, which was rife with verbal and physical altercations.
She had accused him of a night of terror at her apartment on April 6, 2013, alleging digital penetration. She also said he covered her head with a pillow as he beat her, poured water down her nose and throat, stuffed his underwear inside her mouth and opened her eyelids and spit inside her eyes.
During the sentencing hearing, she fought back tears as she asked the judge to impose a harsh penalty.
"He is a predator," the woman said. "He has a long history of doing this."
But Nichols pointed out that a pre-sentencing report from the state probation office, containing information from an incomplete psychosexual evaluation, indicated that Nardi "is not a sexually violent predator."
The judge noted that Nardi had two prior felony convictions, both older than a decade. She also said that two women whom Nardi dated in the past — one of whom is now an ardent supporter — successfully obtained restraining orders against him, but not because of allegations of violence against them.
The judge suggested that Nardi finally met a woman who would fight back against him when he displayed abusive behavior.
Nardi had positive attributes, Nichols said, including a good local work history and generous acts toward people in need. He had many female friends, many of whom sent her letters to lobby for a light sentence, she explained.
Nichols said she didn't think sexual assault was Nardi's primary motive on the so-called night of terror. Rather, his actions represented an escalating trend of domestic violence in the relationship and his need for control, the judge said.
But co-prosecutor Andrea Bryan had called Nardi's actions "evil" and "sadistic." She called Nardi "a ticking time bomb" with a complete lack of respect for the judicial system.
The sexual assault, Bryan acknowledged, did not result in the type of extreme physical pain commonly experienced by rape victims. Instead, it was an emotional pain "that can never be healed."
During brief comments before the judge, Nardi maintained his innocence and said he looked forward to an appeal and a new trial.
In addition to felony sexual assault, Nardi was convicted of two other felonies: attempted assault and a bond violation. The jury also found him guilty of three misdemeanors related to false imprisonment and assault.
The Aspen Times in September reported that Nardi is being held in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he works as a janitor making 66 cents per day.
— Andre Salvail
A local business with a storied past, the Krabloonik dog-sledding and restaurant business has found itself mired in controversy for years now, much of which came to a head over the past 16 months.
Just before the holidays in 2013, owner Dan MacEachen was charged with eight counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, one for each individual dog that was confiscated by the District Attorney's Office during a search just before. The search was part of an investigation that started last fall amid public accusations regarding MacEachen's treatment of his approximately 250 sled dogs and complaints filed with Snowmass police by former mushers.
In 2014, MacEachen attended his first hearings in the case, which was set to go to trial in October after the parties were unable to settle out of court. However, various motions were filed in the case, including one asking the judge to suppress evidence collected in the search, which the defense said was carried out without probable cause. MacEachen is now set to stand trial next May, although the two sides continue to discuss plea agreements.
Meanwhile, MacEachen, who founded Krabloonik 40 years ago, was in purchase negotiations with his directors of operations, Danny and Gina Phillips, who joined the Krabloonik team in November 2013. The Phillipses signed papers to buy the dog-sledding and restaurant operation on Dec. 3, two days after the Town Council granted them a temporary lease for the Krabloonik lot. The town, which acquired the lot through a swap several years ago, took a lot of heat throughout 2014 for not taking more action to ensure that abuse and neglect are not occurring at Krabloonik.
Because of the controversial history of the business, the newly elected Snowmass Village Town Council wants to interview the Phillipses and open a public discussion about the operation of Krabloonik, with the goal of articulating some standards in its lease with the new owners and perhaps creating an advisory group to monitor the animals' welfare.
The Phillipses have made an effort to reach out to the community and improve Krabloonik's image by holding open houses and adoption fairs, particularly this summer. They also have adopted out numerous animals — something animal-rights activists have been calling for several years in light of allegations of unwarranted euthanasias — altered the dogs' eating and summer exercise schedules, and spaying and neutering about 50 dogs, thanks to funding from the Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter.
Opponents of MacEachen, including members of the group Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs, have said they're cautiously optimistic about how the standard of care will change under the Phillipses' ownership. 2015 may well be the beginning of a new chapter in Krabloonik's history.
— Jill Beathard
Patti Clapper elected commissioner (again)
The mid-term elections proved pivotal in both state and national politics, but it was a fairly sleepy election season in Aspen and Pitkin County.
But a noteworthy change in local politics took shape when Patti Clapper unseated Rob Ittner from the District 1 post on the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners.
Clapper, who served three terms as county commissioner from 1999 to 2010, ran on a platform in which she vowed to address the county's mental health issues and stand up to big growth and development.
Clapper will be sworn in next month. She joins Steve Child, George Newman, Michael Owsley and Rachel Richards on a board that is tasked with playing a key role in deciding on the expansion of Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, among other issues.