Carbondale officials accused of conflict of interest |

Carbondale officials accused of conflict of interest

John StroudCarbondale correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE A group of Missouri Heights residents opposed to the 93-home Hunt Ranch development is accusing two Carbondale town officials of having a conflict of interest because they work as private consultants on the project.Community Development director Doug Dotson, in his capacity as a private planning consultant, is part of the planning team for Hunt Ranch LLC, which has a subdivision proposal for the 561-acre parcel north of Highway 82 currently before the Garfield County Planning Commission.Likewise, the towns contract attorney, Mark Hamilton, through the legal firm of Holland & Hart, also is working on the project.I think its a serious conflict of interest that needs to be addressed, Susan Edmonds, who resides near the proposed project, said during the public comment portion of Tuesday nights Carbondale Town Council meeting.Another neighbor, Becky Chase, said its curious that the town has not made a formal comment on such a large proposal that, even though its outside of Carbondale, could have an impact on the town.Ethically, this looks very funny to me, she said. This is a proposal that will take us from a rural community to an urban community. Added Rob Tobias, another area resident, Were fighting for our quality of life, and it doesnt feel right to be fighting town staff. It seems to be a clear conflict of interest, and I think its unconscionable.Because Hunt Ranch is outside Carbondales three-mile area of influence, the county did not automatically afford the town an opportunity to comment formally on the proposal, Town Manager Tom Baker said.However, the towns Planning and Zoning Commission is to receive a briefing on the proposal from a staff member other than Dotson, and might decide to issue an informal comment on the development and its possible impacts to the town, he said.That has yet to happen. Doug will not be involved in that discussion, Baker said. Baker said Dotsons employment agreement with the town allows for outside consulting, as long as it is not in direct conflict with town business. And Hamilton, as a contract employee of the town with his own private practice, is also allowed to do work outside of town business.Still, the trustees would like to review the policy regarding town employees engaging in outside work. However, they did not respond directly to the claims made Tuesday.Certainly, this is something we will look into, Mayor Michael Hassig said. But its not our policy to respond to these things immediately.Trustee John Foulkrod said, I think we do need to take a look at this and define the parameter for town employees to work outside the towns realm.The Hunt Ranch was to have gone back before the county planning commission Wednesday night. But the developers were expected to ask for the matter to be continued until a future meeting.


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