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Duroux out of Basalt election

BASALT – Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux on Monday withdrew as a candidate for Town Council in the April 3 election after learning he isn’t eligible under the term-limit provision of the Colorado Constitution.

Duroux said he withdrew after consulting with town attorney Tom Smith.

“In haste to meet deadlines to get my petition submitted, I failed to do the proper amount of research to determine if I was eligible to seek the councilor position,” Duroux said in a statement. “I do not want to taint the election in any way and am very sorry that I have caused this problem.”

Basalt, like other town governments, has relied on advice from the Colorado Municipal League on term limits. The municipal league, an association of cities and towns in the state, says in its guidelines for candidates that changing office from council to mayor and back is “a common practice” in local government.

But section 18-11 of the Colorado Constitution states that no elected member of a governing board shall serve more than two consecutive terms in office. The only exception is when there is a two-year term, such as an appointment. Then the elected official can serve three terms.

Colorado Municipal League Executive Director Sam Mamet couldn’t be reached Monday afternoon for an explanation of why the organization’s interpretation of term limits differs from the state constitution or if there has been an update that Basalt is unaware of.

Duroux has been in office in Basalt since 1994, when he was appointed to a council seat. He won election to a four-year council position in 1996 and won re-election in 2000.

He won election as mayor in 2004 and ran uncontested in a re-election bid in 2008.

Duroux knew he was facing term limits as mayor but thought he was eligible to run for council. Duroux said he discovered that he wasn’t eligible to run Monday while preparing for a media interview on his long tenure in office and whether that went against the spirit – not the legality – of term limits.

The constitution wording makes it appear that Duroux was ineligible to run for mayor in 2004 because he already had served a two-year term and two four-year terms. He was required to sit out four years before seeking Basalt elected office again.

Town Manager Bill Kane said running for council, then mayor and then council again was “an easy mistake to make” given the guidelines produced by the Colorado Municipal League.

“We regret that we did not catch this earlier but we have relied on advice from (the municipal league),” Kane wrote Monday in an email to Basalt council members and town staff. “Leroy was acting on the same conventional beliefs that we all shared. I believe that (the municipal league’s) publication is correct only for municipalities who have amended their charters to clearly distinguish between the office of Mayor and Town Council. We have not done so.”

Basalt’s home rule charter doesn’t address term limits. The charters of Aspen and Pitkin County specifically set limits, so the state constitution doesn’t apply to them. In addition, the Basalt charter makes it clear that the mayor is on equal footing with the council members and is “considered a full member of the council.” Therefore, the mayor’s position isn’t treated differently as far as term limits when switching back and forth between council and mayor.

Basalt voters last weighed in on term limits in November 2002. They voted to retain the limits set by the state, Kane said.

Monday’s shake-up removes a very strong candidate in a six-person field vying for three council positions. Duroux has easily won seats in the past four elections – two as councilman and two as mayor.

He said Monday that he thought he received the highest number of votes in each of his elections. He said he imagined there will be “a bunch of irate” Basalt voters once they learn he was ineligible.

Duroux said withdrawing was “the right thing to do” to avoid any potential litigation involving the town government or himself if he stayed in the race. However, no one had challenged Duroux’s legal eligibility before his withdrawal.

Duroux said he has been in office 17 years and eight months. He will be out April 10.

“It’s somewhat of a disappointment that I won’t be involved anymore,” he said.

He decided to run for council this election, he said, because he was encouraged by supporters who want him to stay involved with town government. Duroux said he feels the continuity is important. Many Basalt council members have remained in office for only one four-year term in recent years, he noted.

Duroux withdrew before Town Hall mailed out 738 permanent mail-in ballots to voters on that list. The ballots were scheduled to be mailed Monday. The ballots will be “modified” by removing Duroux’s name, Kane said, and they will likely be mailed Tuesday. The ballots that will be at the polling place at Town Hall on April 3 also will be modified.

The remaining council candidates are Lemuel Bolanos, Robert Leavitt, Bill Maron, Rick Stevens and Herschel Ross. The two candidates for mayor are Glenn Rappaport and Jacque Whitsitt.

The candidates will participate in a candidates forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Room of the Basalt Library. The forum is sponsored by the Basalt Chamber of Commerce.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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