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Ireland’s e-mail a bit short on ammo

Allyn Harvey

Foes of county Commissioner Mick Ireland have a lot of work ahead if they hope to find much ammunition among his electronic communications for their recall effort.

The overwhelming majority of Ireland’s e-mail is about mundane county business. But if they look hard enough through the hundreds of e-mails made public yesterday, his opponents will likely find evidence to reinforce their case that Ireland is impolite at times, especially toward certain landowners and members of the development community.

After reviewing more than 200 of Ireland’s e-mails dating back to Jan. 1, 1999, The Aspen Times found clear evidence that Ireland used his political experience to aid the pro-rail movement and that he isn’t inclined to appoint political enemies to the county’s volunteer boards. The e-mails also illustrate his deep mistrust for certain individuals, including Hunter Creek landowners Tom and Bonnie McCloskey.

It also appears Ireland and the other county commissioners had mulled over the idea of the development moratorium in executive session in the weeks leading up to its enactment on Jan. 10.

More than 650 e-mails to and from Ireland since Jan. 1, 1999 were turned over at 4 p.m. yesterday to attorney Millard Zimet, who represents longtime Ireland foe Larry Winnerman and The Committee to Recall Mick Ireland.

Winnerman used Colorado’s open records law to access all of Ireland’s and Commissioner Leslie Lamont’s electronic communications over the last 15 months. The county released about 230 of Lamont’s e-mails yesterday, as well.

“This is not it by any means, there will be more released shortly. We’re working as quickly as possible to comply with the request,” said County Manager Suzanne Konchan.

The law requires government to make official documents and communications, including e-mail, available to the public on demand, with some exceptions. The government isn’t required to turn over correspondence that isn’t connected to official duties, messages from constituents that clearly imply an expectation of confidentiality, and “work product,” such as research and drafts of pending legislation.

Konchan and other sources at the county have estimated that close to 2,000 e-mails of each of the two commissioners will be released over the next several days.

In one e-mail, Ireland urges the county to advertise for housing board candidates rather than re-interview Ramon Duvernay, whom he describes as “Mr. Recall Duvernay.” Duvernay had been rejected once before for the housing board, and last fall he signed recall petitions against four commissioners – Ireland, Shellie Harper, Dorothea Farris and Leslie Lamont.

“Do we really want to talk to Mr. Recall Duvernay. Not me. I say advertise now,” Ireland wrote on Oct. 29, 1999.

But among the reams of e-mail made available, there is also one in which Harper, a favorite of the development community, expresses the exact same feelings about Board of Adjustment member Don Westerling.

“I’m curious how you all feel,” she wrote to Ireland on Dec. 8. “Am I being petty to not want to to reappoint someone who signed our recall petitions?”

To which Ireland replied, “Joseph Kennedy once said: `Forgive your enemies but remember their names.’ The real question is whether this guy does a good job on the BOA.”

Another e-mail that may be interpreted as reflecting Ireland’s biases against development is a Dec. 14 exchange with county planner Tamara Pregl.

Pregl e-mailed all five county commissioners to explain a mistake she had made with an application to extend the vested development rights of a property owner named Slansky.

At the end of her written analysis of the application, Pregl recommended denial. “The board should adopt a motion to deny the Johnson 1041 Hazard Review and Conceptual Submission …,” Pregl’s memo read.

The only problem was the recommendation was supposed to be about the Slansky’s property, not the Johnson’s. So she wrote the e-mail to correct the mistake.

Ireland replied: “Why not just deny everything to make sure.”

And in an e-mail regarding Tom and Bonnie McCloskey’s effort reroute the Hunter Creek Trail around their property by plowing a new one without a permit, Ireland called the maneuver “bullshit” and speculated they would come in after the fact and ask the county to endorse the change.

If Zimet and Winnerman follow through with their promise to post all of Ireland’s e-mail on the Internet, uncensored, voters will also find plenty that reflects well on the commissioner.

On March 30, 1999, Ireland wrote to the Aspen Skiing Co.’s development director Bill Kane about Little Annie Road: “I was disturbed to see in the paper this morning that there was an expectation that the road could be plowed next fall. That isn’t going to happen, except for narrowly defined emergencies.”

When Aspen Institute vice-president John Bennett offered Ireland and his colleagues free tickets to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the institute, Ireland replied, “Unfortunately, I can’t accept free tickets to anything.”

And when city parking manager Blake Fitch sent an e-mail last summer asking for money to help a parking garage employee who had lost everything in a fire, Ireland wrote back: “Where do I send a check?”

But most of Ireland’s e-mail isn’t that interesting. In most of the e-mails, Ireland is simply answering questions from constituents, alerting county administrators to his schedule, and talking shop with elected officials around the state and the country.


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