DA finds no merit in charge against commissioner
District Attorney Michael Goodbee said Monday he will not prosecute a citizen’s complaint alleging that Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone has a conflict of interest in expressing his views about the White River National Forest plan.”I decline to further pursue an investigation in regard to this matter,” Goodbee said in a statement.Goodbee said Stone was not in a position to gain financially from any forest plan decision, and that Stone will not make the decision regarding what version of the forest plan will be adopted.”The fact that he does not `vote’ on the issue defuses a conflict of interest,” Goodbee wrote in his report.An investigator for the district attorney’s office contacted Stone and Rod Slifer, a partner in the real estate firm Slifer Smith & Frampton, and determined Stone is not an employee or business associate of the firm, nor does he have Vail Resorts as a client. Rather, Stone is an independent contractor for the real estate firm.Vail Resorts owns 50 percent of Slifer Smith & Frampton, and Stone’s alleged business ties to Vail Resorts were part of the basis of the complaint to Goodbee’s office.Stone has been the target of intense criticism from environmental groups for his stance on the White River National Forest plan. Stone has argued for a more balanced forest plan than Alternative D, which favors ecological values over human uses of the forest. It is the Forest Service’s preferred alternative.Stone has suggested using Alternative C as a starting point for the forest’s master plan, which will guide its management for the next 15 years. Critics were particularly vocal about Stone traveling to Washington, D.C. to testify at the invitation of a Senate subcommittee that heard from a dozen witnesses from Colorado. Stone said Goodbee’s decision, while welcome, was no surprise.”It was what I expected all along,” said Stone. “I think it was a waste of taxpayer dollars from the very beginning. The district attorney should spend his time prosecuting real criminals, not chasing ghosts.” According to Goodbee’s report, his office received a request on March 28 from a citizen to investigate Stone.”I’m still waiting for my unknown accuser to show the courage to admit who he is,” said Stone.Goodbee, himself criticized for even bothering with the matter, said that goes with the territory.”Praise and criticism must be set aside so that an objective review of facts and law can be performed,” Goodbee wrote in the conclusion of his report. “In choosing to have this matter formally reviewed, the citizen/complainant thrust a potentially thorny issue to the forefront of a difficult decision process. It is sincerely hoped that the integrity of the forest plan process and the integrity of the respective input by both elected and citizens of our county are impacted in a positive way.”
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