Court papers reach alleged housing scofflaw |

Court papers reach alleged housing scofflaw

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

More than three months after initiating an enforcement case against the owner of a deed-restricted Aspen condominium, housing officials have apparently succeeded in serving her with the lawsuit.

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority won a judge’s permission to serve the complaint and summons to Cathleen Tripodi via the mail and by publishing it in the Aspen Times Weekly after failing to track her down in person.

“I received a return receipt [Wednesday] indicating it was delivered to her post office box in Aspen by certified mail,” said attorney Thomas Fenton Smith, representing the Housing Authority. “In my view, this means she has to answer in 30 days.”

The Housing Authority filed the suit in mid-May, seeking a court order that would force Tripodi to put her unit up for sale because she allegedly violated housing rules. Three months later, she still had not been served with the legal paperwork despite repeated attempts to contact her, according to documents filed with the court.

Tripodi has 30 days to respond to the complaint from the date she is served, allowing the case to go forward. The receipt was signed on Tuesday, Smith said, meaning her response is due by Sept. 25.

According to the complaint, Tripodi violated the deed restriction that governs her Marthinsson-Nostdahl condominium by failing to live and work full time in Pitkin County, and by renting out her condo without prior approval by the housing office.

Tripodi, returning a phone call to her Aspen residence, declined to comment on the case.

Last week, Tripodi hand-delivered a letter to the Pitkin County Courthouse, refuting claims that she has been unavailable.

In her letter to Judge Thomas Ossola, she said she has been at home in Aspen “during the period” the complaint was filed.

“The complaint filed regards my home of 13 years and I take this matter very seriously,” she wrote. “I believe this is just another attempt by Mr. Smith and his clients to further use the newspapers to try their case and to continue to slander, defame and embarrass my employers, friends, neighbors and me.”

In the letter, Tripodi said she voted in the city’s spring elections, has had contact with various local government offices, and has visited both her physician and hairdresser since the complaint was filed.

“Accordingly, at the bare minimum, Mr. Smith and the Housing Authority should be required to physically serve me before they try to take my home away from me,” she concluded.

According to affidavits filed by the housing office, several different process servers attempted to personally deliver a copy of the complaint and summons to Tripodi at her Aspen residence, at an apartment in Arlington, Va., and at her work address in Washington, D.C.

Tripodi accepted an appointment with the U.S. Department of Energy in March 2001 – a job that took her out of town for lengthy periods of time, suggested evidence presented by Smith at a February hearing before the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Board.

At the close of the enforcement hearing, members unanimously concluded Tripodi violated the Housing Authority’s employment and residency requirements, imposed in the deed restriction for her condominium unit.

Owners of deed-restricted housing, designated for qualified local workers, must reside in their unit at least nine months of the year and work in Pitkin County at least 1,500 hours per year.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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