Lowballing unbecoming of Forstmann Little
October 5, 2006
Forstmann Little & Co. needs to reimburse the people of Pitkin County for the $69,000 in costs local law enforcement agencies incurred during the recent visit of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.Talabani was in town for a private dinner and presentation with guests at Forstmann Little’s annual conference. He made no public appearances during the day or so that he was in town.The Aspen Police Department and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s office, despite serving one of the wealthiest areas on the planet, are not wealthy agencies. Nonetheless, when they received a request from the U.S. Secret Service to help provide security for Talabani’s visit, they complied. The Secret Service, like the Basalt and Glenwood Springs police departments, is a “brother agency,” according to Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis.In the past, local officers have provided “mutual aid” for visits from dignitaries including President Bill Clinton and, in most cases, local taxpayers have paid the cost. This rankles Aspenites, as it does residents of every other city lucky (or unlucky) enough to host a president, vice president or other high-ranking public official.Braudis has sought reimbursement in the past from federal agencies and gotten none. This time he has gone to Forstmann Little, which staged the conference at which Talabani spoke. The company has no legal obligation to pay us back. But this was, after all, Forstmann Little’s party. Although Aspenites welcome the private annual event, local taxpayers shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for an unusually expensive guest speaker.Talabani, who arguably faces a higher risk of assassination than anyone else in the world, passed through Aspen practically like an apparition, arriving at night behind bulletproof glass and departing swiftly the next day. Aspenites couldn’t even lay eyes on the Iraqi leader, but his very presence made Aspen a more dangerous place for everyone in town.Talabani spoke at an exclusive event to a room full of prominent businesspeople, all of whom deal in sums of money every day that dwarf the $65,000 at issue here.At this point, the company has offered Braudis $40,000, but he’s holding out for the full amount. It’s probably a safe bet to assume that the people at Forstmann Little who are low-balling our community have annual incomes in the millions – some may be worth even a billion dollars or more.For propriety’s sake, we hope that Forstmann Little can reimburse the people of Pitkin County, who so generously host the company’s party each year.