Article puts planner’s job on the line
Special to The Aspen Times
A senior planner for the town of Snowmass Village was placed on unpaid administrative leave Tuesday because of comments she thought she had made to The Aspen Times under the condition of anonymity.
While never identified by name, the paper divulged that the person behind those comments was both a town planner in Snowmass Village and a female. Carolyn Poissant is the only woman currently working in that capacity for the town.
Contacted after the article ran yesterday, Poissant focused her comments on the content of the story rather than its outcome.
“I never meant to imply that there was anything illegal going on,” she said. “It’s just the community is not being listened to. Anybody has the right to say that.”
She went on to say, “a developer should not be dictating [the Base Village project]. It should be community- driven to create the product. That just isn’t happening.
“I’m frustrated as a planner and as a local resident. This is too beautiful of a place to take chances ruining.”
Allyn Harvey, the editor in charge at The Aspen Times the day the story was published, said the paper owes Poissant an apology.
“We regret that this story has resulted in this outcome. We try our hardest to protect the anonymity of confidential sources. I think this incident has led to a real soul-searching among the entire newsroom staff,” he said.
Praised for her talents by both colleagues and the general public, Poissant, who wrote a column this summer for the Snowmass Sun, is known for her no-nonsense approach.
During a council meeting earlier this year, Poissant scolded officials for requesting additional studies on work that already had been completed. She was given a warning for insubordination at the time by Town Manager Mike Segrest.
In defending her actions that day, Poissant said, “The whole perception is that, instead of really addressing the issues, which have to do with what the community envisions, they focused on `go find more of this example.’ As if the community is going to say, `if they did it in Vail, that’s OK.’ That’s for the developer to use as an example.”
Segrest, addressing his decision to place her on administrative leave, said, “I need people who are responsible and professional to handle our applications.” He also denied that any back-room deals are being cut. “It’s totally unfounded. I work with these people very closely.”
Segrest did say he has frequent meetings with the developers. “My job is to communicate with the applicant,” but said nothing untoward has taken place between developers, elected officials or staffers.
“We want to do everything we can to encourage the town of Snowmass Village to reconsider and keep her on,” Harvey. “We think it’s important that people be able to express their opinions without fear of losing their jobs.”
Harvey stressed that reporter Steve Benson should not be blamed for Poissant’s situation. The story he turned in protected her identity.
“A mistake was made between the time the reporter turned the story in and the time it was published,” Harvey said.
Poissant said friends and colleagues inundated her with calls after the article ran. “They told me, `We’re behind you right now.’ Several people said to me, `You didn’t say anything a lot of people aren’t thinking.'”
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After nine months of being shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Wheeler Opera House will reopen for local acts. A touchless reservation system will be open to 53 people for in-person at the venue. Online live streaming also will be available.