Aspen councilman questions city candidate’s ethics

Janet UrquhartAspen Times Staff Writer

At least one City Council member who voted to remove council candidate Bert Myrin from the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission had concerns about Myrin’s ability to serve impartially on the commission.Councilman Tim Semrau said Wednesday he had two “ethical concerns” that led him to vote to oust Myrin from the P&Z. The council voted 4-1 on Monday to terminate Myrin’s appointment to the commission. He had served on the P&Z for 18 months and recently announced he would seek election to the council in May.The city received a complaint, Semrau said, about Myrin’s failure to recuse himself when the P&Z reviewed a development proposal for the Frost house, a property several doors away from his own house in the West End.Later, Myrin distributed to the council a packet of letters from neighbors opposed to the proposed development.”That indicated to me he was less than impartial,” Semrau said. “We received a complaint about his lack of impartiality.”Semrau said he was also troubled by the e-mail Myrin distributed while he was seeking a permit from the Historic Preservation Commission to erect a fence outside his house. In it, Myrin referred to a past matter before the HPC and implied an approval in that case was granted in exchange for financial gain by city staffer Amy Guthrie and her husband. Guthrie is the city’s historic preservation officer.”Obviously, we can’t have somebody sitting on a quasi-judicial board if that’s how you believe a permit gets approved,” Semrau said. “Somebody who believes bribery is going on in the city and who doesn’t recuse himself in that situation doesn’t belong on our board.”Myrin said he was “shocked” by Semrau’s charge that he failed to impartially review a development application.”I had never heard the council’s concern regarding the Frost property,” Myrin said yesterday. “That’s interesting to hear, after the fact, out of the blue.”The minutes of two P&Z meetings at which the application was reviewed both indicate Myrin disclosed he resided at a neighboring home. At one meeting, the commission chair asked other members if they felt Myrin had a conflict. No one objected to his participation, according to the minutes.The P&Z voted 4-1 against a proposed duplex on the property; Myrin voted with the majority.”Whether I voted or not, since it was 4-1, my vote didn’t make any difference,” he said.The packet of letters he later distributed to the council came to the P&Z during its review, Myrin said. Since the council doesn’t automatically get the letters that come to the P&Z, Myrin said he wanted to make sure council members saw them.”The council’s not hearing the citizens’ concerns,” he said.As for the e-mail, Myrin said the message makes it clear he had no intention of offering a bribe to get a permit.”I’m somewhat shocked that he [Semrau] would think that is my expectation of how to get a project through,” Myrin said. “It’s 180 degrees from what I said.”[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]