Basalt Town Council researching if ex-manager Scanlon violated ethics code with new job for midvalley developer
November 22, 2016
Attorneys for the town of Basalt are researching whether former Town Manager Mike Scanlon violated the town's Code of Ethics by taking a job with a midvalley developer.
The council met in executive session for about 20 minutes Tuesday night to discuss Scanlon's hiring by Woody Ventures LLC, a company seeking approval from Eagle County for the Tree Farm, a proposal for 340 residences, 74,000 square feet of commercial space and a 60,000-square-foot hotel.
The Aspen Times reported Monday that Scanlon was hired as a consultant for the development team. He quit as Basalt town manager Aug. 19 after some board members questioned his spending and increased the level of oversight.
Attorneys for the council and Scanlon have been unable to agree on a severance package.
The council abruptly added the executive session — which is closed to the public — on Monday afternoon.
After meeting with Town Attorney Tom Smith and consulting attorney Steve Dawes, the council emerged from the executive session to vote on a motion.
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"Council makes a motion to instruct legal counsel to inform Mike Scanlon that his employment with Woody Ventures may or may not constitute a violation of town ethics rules per his contract and we don't waive our right to recognize that," said the motion by Councilman Auden Schendler. It was approved 6-0 with Councilman Gary Tennenbaum absent for holiday travel.
The ambiguous wording appeared to reflect that the town's attorneys haven't had enough time to research the issue yet.
Scanlon lobbied against the Tree Farm in 2015 in his capacity as town manager. He told Eagle County officials at that time it shouldn't be approved without major revisions.
Scanlon told The Aspen Times last week that the development team has adopted many of the points he was lobbying for, including reducing the footprint of any single-use commercial space to 30,000 from 55,000 square feet. That removes the threat that the Tree Farm will lure a business such as City Market, for example, from Basalt.
The Tree Farm is located on the north side of Highway 82, across the road from Whole Foods.
The town attorneys will look at Scanlon's employment by Woody Ventures in the context of Basalt's Principles of Conduct in the Code of Ethics.
The Principles of Conduct say, in part, that no town official or employee should obtain employment within six months of leaving the government in which he or she "will take direct advantage, unavailable to others, of matters with which he or she was directly involved during his or her term of employment."
The matters include rules that the employee helped create or "contested cases" where the employee was an active participant.
It is unclear if it is a violation of the principles when an employment takes a job on a project that isn't being reviewed by the town but has implications for Basalt.
Eagle County has jurisdiction over the Tree Farm application. Scanlon weighed in from Basalt's perspective during an earlier stage of the review.
Scanlon didn't return a telephone message Tuesday seeking comment.
It also was unclear Tuesday what action the town could take if it determines there was a violation of the Code of Ethics by Scanlon.
"The principles in this section are intended as guides for conduct and failure to comply with any principle does not constitute a violation of the public trust of office or employment in the town," the Code of Ethics says.