Aspen’s new housing board does away with rules of decorum; shouting starts minutes later
As two sheriff’s deputies sat at the ready for a possible threat from a member of the public, the newly formed Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority did away with reading the rules of decorum as one of its first official votes Wednesday.
“It’s a new board, it’s a new time,” said APCHA board member George Newman, who suggested that the rules regarding public comment no longer be read at the beginning of the meeting.
Tom Smith, attorney for APCHA, said there is no requirement to read rules of decorum and it’s entirely discretionary.
“It was adopted by the board as a way to provide explicit guidance to the public about conduct in the public comment section of the meeting,” he said.
For the past two years, an APCHA board member has read the rules of decorum at the start of meetings to inform those who want to make public comment that they do so without “intimidation, profanity, personal affronts and threats of violence …
“Warnings may be given by the chair at any time that a speaker does not conduct himself or herself in a professional and respectful manner and anyone whose loud, defiant, threatening, personal, vulgar, uncivil or abusive language or behavior impedes the orderly conduct of an APCHA board meeting shall, at the discretion of the presiding officer, be barred from speaking further and may be ejected from the meeting,” reads the statement.
Lee Mulcahy, who is in a bitter legal battle with APCHA and is being evicted from his Burlingame Ranch home for not complying with the deed restriction rules, nearly got himself ejected when he shouted from the back of the room that Mike Kosdrosky, the executive director of the tax-subsidized program, was lying.
Deputies rushed over to Mulcahy and told him to settle down, which he did.
There has been a police presence at APCHA board meetings for more than a year, in order to make staff feel safe from those who have grievances with the agency.
Mulcahy claimed on Wednesday in public comment that APCHA did not follow its own rules when it issued a notice of violation to him for not showing evidence that he works in Pitkin County a minimum of 1,500 hours a year.
He then attempted to video his mother, Sandy, making her public comment by walking behind elected officials at the dais, to which he was told to go back to the public sitting area.
Sandy Mulcahy, 83, told the board she is not budging from the home.
“We feel like our constitutional rights have been violated,” she said. “If you send the SWAT team, I hope it makes national news.”
After the Mulcahys’ comments, Kosdrosky told the board that he personally called Lee Mulcahy the day before the deadline to comply with the notice of violation, suggesting that he make a formal appeal to the board but he declined, claiming corruption among city officials and the owners of Aspen Skiing Co.
“No, he did not!” Mulcahy screamed from the back of the room. “He’s lying.”
After listening to public comment and director comments on Wednesday, the newly formed Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board met in executive session to get caught up on the five active lawsuits that APCHA is involved in.
They are all compliance cases in which homeowners or renters within the APCHA inventory have allegedly violated the rules in some way.
Lee Mulcahy, who has been embroiled in legal wrangling with APCHA since 2015, has lost at every turn — including the state district and appellate court levels, as well as failing to persuade both the state and United States supreme courts to hear the case.
APCHA has asked the court to appoint a receiver to put the Burlingame Ranch up for sale because Mulcahy won’t.
In separate cases, Amanda Tucker and Julie Peters also won’t budge from their APCHA units despite that the authority alleges they have broken eligibility requirements.
Last fall, the district court ruled in APCHA’s favor. The agency, which manages almost 3,000 affordable-housing units in the upper valley, claimed that Tucker violated terms of her lease by failing to provide the agency with qualifying information like income, assets and employment documents.
Tucker has appealed the court’s ruling and has earned a stay until the case is resolved.
Peters is challenging APCHA in court, disputing the allegation that she was not living in the unit full time and wasn’t fulfilling the employment requirement.
Rita Martinez did not respond to a compliance investigation or to a judicial enforcement action, so the district court has appointed a receiver to enforce the judgment requiring a sale of the property she resides in.
Sonya Bolerjack is the latest compliance case that the APCHA board has dealt with.
In one of its last actions, the former board last month voted unanimously that Bolerjack has to sell her unit for failing to prove the that she meets the 1,500-hour work requirement.
That was the first taste to new board members of what an APCHA meeting can be.
After months of controversy, the newly formed APCHA board met for the first time, with elected officials now casting votes to make decisions final.
It’s a departure from the seven-member board made up of all citizen volunteers who made recommendations on policy matters to elected city and county officials.
The new board is comprised of three former members, along with Aspen City Councilman Skippy Mesirow and Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman.
APCHA board members in their opening comments of Wednesday’s meeting said they are looking forward to working on the myriad issues facing the program.
Two of the largest issues facing APCHA, which was established in the late 1970s and early ’80s, is the aging inventory of units and sweeping deficits in the capital reserves of most homeowners associations.
Pete Louras, a local volunteer who was one of 32 people who applied to be on the new board but did not get appointed, said he would like to be part of a working group to chip away at the big issues facing APCHA.
Kelly McNicholas Kury, who is a county commissioner and serves as an alternate on the APCHA board, said all of the candidates had good ideas to build on.
“There is a lot that is ripe to work on,” she said.
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Kevin Warner started his career with the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness ranger in 2001. Now he’s taking over the key position as Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.