Hershey, McCabe admit mistakes
April 16, 2003
City councilmen Tony Hershey and Tom McCabe conceded Wednesday they made a mistake by failing to disclose campaign contributions from developers whose project was before them for a vote on Monday.
Both men said they intended to make mention of it but forgot to do so at Monday’s council meeting, when the council unanimously approved the Obermeyer Place redevelopment.
Klaus Obermeyer, who is spearheading the development, and Tim Belinski, chief financial officer for Sport Obermeyer, each gave $250 to both Hershey and McCabe, who are seeking re-election in May. The $250 contribution is the maximum allowed.
“I should have disclosed it. I intended to and I forgot,” McCabe said yesterday. “I just screwed up.”
“It was an oversight on my part,” Hershey said. “I should have said that Klaus and Tim gave to my campaign.”
Candidates for City Council and the mayor’s post were required to file their first report on campaign spending and contributions with the city clerk’s office at the end of the day on Tuesday.
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Hershey said he actually filed his report on Monday before the council meeting, so the Obermeyer contributions were on record before the development application came before the council for a vote.
“I should have said something Monday night, though,” he said. “That was my mistake.”
Both candidates approached the Obermeyer representatives about a month ago to request support for their campaigns and found willing contributors, according to Belinski.
“All the council members have been supportive, but those two specifically asked for help with their campaigns,” he said. “We were glad to help them out.”
Hershey was the first council member to warn the Obermeyer development team that an early version of their project wasn’t likely to win support, given the size of the proposed buildings, according to Belinski.
“He was always painfully honest and up front with us,” Belinski said.
McCabe was a member of the council-appointed task force that helped shape the Obermeyer Place development proposal and has been a strong supporter of the evolving project.
“I think it’s plain that I’ve been for this project from day one,” McCabe said.
If the community feels strongly that the contribution, or his failure to disclose it, was inappropriate, McCabe said he’ll return the money.
“If there’s a hue and cry about it, I’ll give the 500 bucks back,” he said. “I’m just going to wait and see what happens.”
Campaign contributions can be tricky in a small town, where friends and supporters can also be the people with business before the council, Hershey noted.
“You could totally immobilize a City Council if you pursued this to the ultimate,” agreed Mayor Helen Klanderud.
That nearly occurred Monday, when Councilman Terry Paulson suggested a different development application be put off until after the election because most of the council members were, he said, compromised by a potential conflict of interest.
Paulson questioned the ability of three council members to review a proposed hotel project in which the Aspen Skiing Co. would have a management role after the Skico endorsed the trio of candidates in a letter it sent out to its employees.
McCabe recused himself from the review of that project, choosing to “err on the side of caution,” while Hershey recused himself because he works part time for the Skico. Klanderud declined to step down from the review, saying she could judge the application impartially.
Klanderud has not received contributions from the Obermeyer representatives, but said Belinski asked her about making a donation to her campaign. She said she discouraged the Obermeyer developers from making one until after their project came up for a vote.
Belinski said it’s his recollection that Klanderud was uncertain about whether her campaign fund needed the help. They have not discussed it since, he said.
Hershey said he was proud to receive a contribution from Klaus Obermeyer, a well-respected longtime local resident and a member of the Aspen Hall of Fame.
“I’m so pleased and honored that he’s a supporter of mine, no matter what he has in the pipeline,” Hershey said.
On a related note, mayoral candidate Andrew Kole submitted his report a day late. It notes $1,000 in contributions, plus $763 left over from his failed council bid two years ago. He reported no expenditures.