Carbondale man says he aims to recall Basalt mayor

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Jacque Whitsitt

BASALT – A Carbondale man has informed Basalt town officials that he will launch an attempt to recall Mayor Jacque Whitsitt for reasons he hasn’t specified yet.

David Schoenberger contacted Basalt town clerk Pam Schilling via email Nov. 19 seeking advice on the legal requirements of a recall petition.

“As we discussed earlier (Nov. 19) my group is looking to initiate and follow through in obtaining the necessary valid signatures to recall our current Basalt Mayor,” Schoenberger wrote to Schilling. He wrote that his group wanted to present the recall petition to the Town Council at its Tuesday night meeting. That didn’t happen.

Schoenberger’s email to Schilling doesn’t state reasons why he believes Whitsitt should be recalled from office. Schoenberger declined numerous requests for an interview by The Aspen Times. It couldn’t be determined whether other people are working on the effort.

Whitsitt was elected mayor in April. State statute prohibits a recall effort against elected officials during their first six months in office.

Whitsitt said Tuesday that she was aware that Schoenberger had indicated to town officials that he was initiating the recall process.

“I thought it was weird mostly because I have not heard from anybody that was dissatisfied in my leadership, my platform and the governance of Basalt – at least not to my face,” she said.

Whitsitt said Schoenberger has not contacted her with any complaints. “I sure would like to know what his issues are,” she said.

The only substantial controversy involving the Basalt town government recently was the parting of ways with police chief Roderick O’Connor. He resigned voluntarily on Monday, according to a joint statement that O’Connor and the town government released. Scores of supporters have written letters to the editors of the Aspen newspapers in support of O’Connor. In addition, organizers of a petition expressing support for O’Connor said they gathered hundreds of signatures.

Schoenberger has no apparent connection to the petition drive showing support for O’Connor.

Schoenberger’s email sought help from Schilling on “certain important details” of the recall petition. He said his group will write the petition but wants Schilling or someone with authority to “sign off on the document’s validity so we all know that it will be valid when completed.”

The email is a public document obtained by The Aspen Times, as was Schilling’s response. She told Schoenberger that nothing in the Basalt Town Code or Town Charter addresses recall elections, so state statutes apply.

“I cannot advise you on the development of a petition or any other aspect of a recall,” Schilling wrote. “As the election official, I must remain impartial in the recall process. If you are uncomfortable with the process, it may be best to obtain the advice of an attorney.”

Schilling informed Schoenberger that he would need to gather 190 signatures to force a recall election. That is 25 percent of the votes cast in the mayoral election in April, when Whitsitt topped Glenn Rappaport 418 to 341.

Schoenberger is no stranger to politics in the upper and middle Roaring Fork Valley. He was in the thick of a battle with the Pitkin County commissioners to develop W/J Ranch in the late 1990s. Schoenberger was involved in an effort to try to recall Mick Ireland, then a county commissioner. That particular attempt failed because the recall petition wasn’t properly prepared.

More recently, Schoenberger was at odds with the town of Basalt in 2010 over the license for a medical marijuana business. He was a partner in a business called Basalt Alternative Medicine. The town staff initially rejected the application for the business on various grounds. The Town Council approved a compromise that allowed Basalt Alternative Medicine temporary permission to operate in the space that previously housed a different dispensary. That dispute took place before Whitsitt’s election as mayor.

Schoenberger is a former resident of Basalt, but he now lives in Carbondale. While it’s not impossible for a resident of one town to get involved in the politics of another, it is unusual. Only residents of Basalt who are qualified to vote would be allowed to sign the recall petition, if one is circulated.

Whitsitt said it is too soon for her to be concerned about the recall petition process or an election. “This whole thing is not very realistic to me at this point given that there’s no petition that’s known and no reasons that are known,” she said.