Ireland, Farris mend BOCC rift
Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland feels his fellow board members undermined him recently when an applicant before the board shouted obscenities at him and refused to answer his questions.
Responding yesterday, the president of the Board of County Commissioners admitted she mishandled the meeting but tried her best to manage a tense situation. She also affirmed the board’s cohesiveness.
In a routine review of his mining operations last week, Robert Congdon, owner of the White Banks Alabaster Mine, lashed out at Ireland, shouting obscenities and claiming harassment. He then refused to answer Ireland’s questions about mine operations.
Board President Dorothea Farris called a five-minute recess, but then re-started the meeting without Ireland. When Ireland returned, Farris allowed Congdon to not answer Ireland’s inquiries.
In a letter after the meeting, Ireland told Farris and Commissioners Patti Clapper and Shellie Roy that it set a dangerous precedent to “allow an applicant to control the meeting to the point of refusing to answer a commissioner’s questions.” Commissioner Jack Hatfield was not present at the meeting.
“[Farris, Roy, and Clapper] sided with the applicant. In my many years on the board, that’s not something that’s ever happened before,” Ireland said.
Farris told The Aspen Times that she talked with Ireland after the meeting and reconfirmed her support. She also admitted that she should have handled the incident differently.
“I failed. I should have called the meeting and tabled the issue,” Farris said. “I saw [Ireland] the next day and told him that I did what I thought I could do in a tense situation. It was totally inappropriate, what [Congdon] did. An attack on one board member is an attack on the whole board.”
Farris said such conflicts on a county board are neither rare nor an indication of ill health. She argued that the current board remains strong despite personality differences.
“This is a strong board with strong personalities,” Farris said. “We are on the board because we are such strong personalities. Often we disagree, but I don’t think that means we aren’t healthy. We understand that when we come to a decision, that decision represents the whole board, even if people disagree.”
Farris also pointed out that Congdon will be up for another review later this year and has promised to comply with meeting protocol.
Ireland also said he is prepared to move on, although misgivings remain.
“At this point, I have to let go of it. I don’t have the ability to force [the other commissioners] to recognize the harm Congdon did,” Ireland said.
Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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