City Council stalls residency probe
ASPEN Voters will have to wait until after the June 5 runoff election to know whether City Council candidate Toni Kronberg is actually eligible to run for public office.In a closed-door session Tuesday, the Aspen City Council decided to stall taking action on three complaints last week challenging Kronberg’s residency in the city.”The council will not take any formal action until after the election,” said City Attorney John Worcester. “It’s not fair to anyone. … The situation is very unfortunate.”No matter the resolution, it’s not going to sit well with anyone. It’s a tough one because it goes to the very heart of our democratic process.”Worcester wouldn’t discuss what advice he gave the City Council in executive session Tuesday, but said the investigation into Kronberg’s residency presumably would resume the day after the election. Worcester said the meeting was closed to the public because it concerned a legal matter. “I expect some sort of movement to be made. There have been complaints filed,” he said.Were Kronberg to defeat opponent Steve Skadron – and city officials to find her residency for the past 12 months to be outside Aspen city limits – she could be thrown out of office before the June 11 swearing-in.Worcester added that the City Council takes a serious approach in determining the qualifications of its members. Aspen’s city charter states: “The council shall be the judge of election and qualifications of its own members.”Worcester said the decision was the best the council members could do, given the rights of all involved and the time constraints before the runoff election,”It’s not a perfect solution for [candidates, the voters or the council],” Worcester said. “I think the council’s actions were appropriate.”
Worcester said if Kronberg disqualified after winning the runoff, Skadron would most likely take Kronberg’s seat because he was the second-highest vote-getter.Meanwhile, it is unclear what would happen to the votes Kronberg might have taken from the other six candidates who ran for council. Andrew Kole, who received 300 votes in the May 8 election, wondered if he would have gotten some, or a majority, of Kronberg’s 487 votes. He also objected to the council discussing Kronberg’s candidacy qualifications in executive session because two of the members, J.E. DeVilbiss and Jack Johnson, could serve the next two years with Kronberg if she is elected.”I’m objecting that Jack and J.E. cannot possibly rule on this because they have a conflict,” Kole said outside the executive session.Kole was outraged over the council’s decision.”Council is bordering on being negligent because if she ran illegally, the runoff with Steve would be with someone else,” he said. “This has nothing to do with me. It’s not right. This is wrong, this is bullshit.” Worcester said he spoke with council members about the issue for more than 30 minutes, mostly about the substance of the complaints and the electoral process.Kole, Ron Erickson and Jim DeFrancia filed separate complaints last Wednesday with City Clerk Kathryn Koch, challenging Kronberg’s residency.Because the investigation is pending, Worcester said he would not release the evidence Kronberg provided last week that she claims proves she lives at 230 N. Spring St., an Aspen riverfront home owned by Denver real-estate agent Denise Reich.Kronberg said she gave city officials leases that prove she has lived in Reich’s home for the past year. She has declined to share the leases with The Aspen Times.
Kronberg changed her address around the time she filed her petition to run for council. Her former residence was 377 N. Spring St., a large riverfront property with a caretaker unit that Reich also owns.Several sources told The Aspen Times they believe she lives outside the city limits in Aspen Village, based on her continual presence there.The only requirement to prove city residency is a signature on a voter registration form. Kronberg signed an affidavit swearing she lives at 230 N. Spring St.”There is nothing in the city charter that says you have to prove residency other than the affidavit,” Worcester said. While the city charter says that in order to qualify for a council seat, a candidate must have lived in Aspen for the preceding 12 months, there is room for interpretation. If a person lives outside of the city for a period of time, but intends to return, that person could still be considered a resident.”Residency is not the same as domicile,” Worcester said. “It depends on the definition of residency, and it turns to the intent of the person to return.”
More evidence has surfaced that City Council candidate Toni Kronberg has made Aspen Village her home during the past year, which would make her ineligible for public office.Kronberg told The Aspen Times last week that she lived as a caretaker for Denice Reich in the Oklahoma Flats neighborhood this past summer and winter. However, a police report Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy Ann Stephenson filed last summer says Kronberg lived at Aspen Village, which is outside city limits.The report was part of an investigation when Kronberg was working and living at a Woody Creek ranch last June. Kronberg was asked to move out because the owner of the ranch wanted more space for his guests, said Lauren Walkiewicz, the caretaker.”Ms. Kronberg told me that she had been told by Ms. Walkiewicz that the owner of the property wanted to move his mother into the cottage for the summer so Ms. Kronberg had to move out,” Stephenson wrote on June 14, 2006. “Ms. Kronberg said that she had been able to find a place to live in Aspen Village and that was where she was taking her things. … Ms. Kronberg is living at either #63 or #64 Aspen Village …”Kronberg, 52, insists that she has not lived in Aspen Village during the past 12 months and does not live there now. She maintains that she only rents an office in the basement of unit No. 60.Kronberg said Tuesday that she has never lived in Aspen Village.Public documents on the Internet show Kronberg’s residential listing as 60 Aspen Village Road in Snowmass, and several sources say they see Kronberg at the Aspen Village subdivision almost on a daily basis. The only requirement to prove city residency is a signature on a voter registration form. In order to qualify for a council seat, a candidate must have lived in Aspen for the preceding 12 months.Walkiewicz, as well as two other people who lived and worked on the ranch, said Kronberg resided there for nearly a month before moving out. Kronberg told the Times a week ago that she lived in Woody Creek for four days before moving back to Reich’s home. She couldn’t remember specifically where she had gone but then recalled it was in the Oklahoma Flats neighborhood.
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