Council boots Myrin off P&Z commission

Janet UrquhartAspen Times Staff Writer
Burt Myrin running recently threw his hat the ring for Aspen city council. Paul Conrad photo.

City Council candidate Bert Myrin was booted off the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission Monday by council members who declined to discuss their reasons publicly.The council voted 4-1 to terminate Myrin’s term on the P&Z, with Councilman Terry Paulson dissenting. Myrin was appointed to the citizen commission in July 2001; he recently announced that he would seek election to the council in May.The council was scheduled to meet with Myrin last night behind closed doors, but Myrin exercised his right to an open session. He wasn’t offered an opportunity to speak.”I’m feeling a little out of the loop,” complained Paulson, pressing fellow council members to explain their justification for Myrin’s dismissal from the P&Z.”He deserves to know,” Paulson said.”He does know,” responded Mayor Helen Klanderud, who thanked Myrin for his service on the P&Z and then made a motion to remove him from the commission.”I would be glad to meet with Mr. Myrin personally and explain my reasons for this,” said Councilman Tim Semrau. “As a courtesy to Bert, I’m not going to discuss it in public.”The council might have engaged in an “extensive discussion” with Myrin, had he not chosen to open the meeting to the public, Klanderud said.”I certainly don’t choose to discuss this in public,” she said. “I have spoken with Bert numerous times.”The council may terminate an appointment at any time, without cause, Klanderud added.”All our appointees to our boards and commissions serve at the pleasure of council,” she said.Myrin apparently got himself in hot water with the council late last year with an e-mail he sent to Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer. The message insinuated preservation approvals could be had in exchange for back-room deals. He subsequently apologized for the remarks.Myrin had been working with Guthrie and the Historic Preservation Commission to win approval for a fence outside his historic West End home.The content of the e-mail, Myrin said, troubled Klanderud.”That was the discussion between Helen and I, but I have no idea if that was the issue for the rest of council,” he said.Myrin said he wasn’t sure how the development – which he anticipated was coming – would affect his election bid, but said some citizens have predicted it will help his candidacy.”It’s clear the direction of council is to focus on the negative and not be open,” he said.Myrin also said he has asked City Attorney John Worcester to re-examine a case that resulted in a three-month, unpaid leave of absence for Guthrie in 1998.”It is my sincere hope that you will do the research necessary to assure the public that the person handling millions of dollars of land-use approvals is perceived in the public eye as acting with the utmost objectivity … ,” Myrin wrote in a Feb. 3 letter to Worcester.Guthrie was reprimanded for failing to disclose in a timely fashion a business relationship that created the appearance of a conflict, though then-City Manager Amy Margerum concluded at the time that no wrongdoing occurred.The perception at the time was that Guthrie’s treatment of a proposal to raze and redevelop the historic Paepcke house was influenced by the fact that she and her husband stood to gain a home in the West End through a separate business deal involving some of the same parties.”It’s a really nasty thing to do, to bring this up,” said Councilman Tony Hershey following last night’s action. “It’s totally a non-issue and it’s offensive, and he [Myrin] should stop it.”