Mayor shuts down public comment about Krabloonik
December 19, 2013
The Snowmass Village mayor did not allow 15 people gathered to speak against Krabloonik, the dogsledding operation under investigation for allegations of animal cruelty, during a public comment period at Monday's town council meeting.
Over the past few months, activists from Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs and other members of the public have used the public non-agenda item period to speak out against the business, from which the District Attorney's Office seized eight animals Thursday as part of an investigation. Friends and an attorney representing owner Dan MacEachen also have used that time to speak on his behalf, although not at the same meetings.
Mayor Bill Boineau opened by saying that when the District Attorney finishes its investigation, the town would put an item on the agenda and put out a public notice so that both sides could be present. Until then, he said he wouldn't take any public non-agenda comments.
"On behalf of Voices … we're not really in need of an agenda item and to have both sides in the room," said Leigh Vogel, of Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs. Vogel is also a photographer for The Aspen Times but was speaking as a citizen.
Vogel has accused Boineau of protecting MacEachen. She asked the mayor Monday if he thought his actions were fair, and he responded affirmatively.
"This portion of the meeting is designed so we can get things to put on an agenda in the future," Boineau said. He told the group they would be notified when a related item was put on the agenda.
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Guy Courtney, former general manager of Krabloonik who was one of three individuals to file a complaint against MacEachen with the Snowmass Village Police, told Boineau he would receive the District Attorney's full report this week.
"That's not my understanding," Boineau said.
Courtney pointed out that Lynne Pfrimmer Mace, of Basalt, had traveled "from downvalley" to speak to the council. Mace's father, Stuart Mace, gave MacEachen the 55 sled dogs that he used to found Krabloonik in 1974.
"I'm willing to take the heat for cutting this off," Boineau said. "We have other work to do. We are done. I'm not going any further with this tonight."
Councilman Jason Haber spoke in opposition to Boineau.
"I'm opposed with the unilateral decision to cut down public comment on this issue," Haber said. "It's impossible for us to know what they're going to talk about."
Courtney asked Councilwoman Markey Butler what she thought. Butler has favored the council having more discussions about the embattled dogsledding operation, which the town leases land to for $10 a year.
"I don't think you're chairing this meeting. I think Billy is," Butler said.
Anne Gurchick, of Snowmass Village, asked if they could be told what the definition of a public non-agenda item was. Boineau denied her.
"You should be ashamed," she said.
What might have been said
Outside the council chambers, Courtney expressed frustration that the individuals present sat through a joint meeting of the council and planning commission before being told they couldn't speak.
"I think it's a clear demonstration of the association by and between the village and the operation of Krabloonik," Courtney said. "This is communist Russia. This isn't Snowmass Village."
Lynne Mace said she would have talked to the council about Krabloonik's roots in Toklat, her father's dogsledding kennel at Ashcroft.
"The kennel now bears no resemblance" to it, she said. "I have firsthand knowledge of how (Krabloonik operates). I don't know any proof that he's abusing the dogs. That's not why I came here. I came here to put Dan on notice and put council on notice for not doing anything. Council has had the ability to make ordinances for this not to happen. They could have helped Dan from himself."
Bill Fabrocini, co-founder of Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs, said those ordinances include having veterinarians on-site during breeding and euthanasia.
"This is tapping the surface," Fabrocini said. "They should do all these things based on the history."
The municipal code says that the town mayor presides over council meetings, which is what gave Boineau authority for his actions, said Town Attorney John Dresser. Boineau said after the meeting that his reason for not allowing the individuals to speak was that they would be repeating the same comments they've made at other meetings.
"There's an investigation going on" and the speakers are trying to stage "a dog and pony show" to influence it, he said.
Boineau said the council would add the issue to an agenda as soon as the report on the investigation is released. However, if charges are filed, the council might have to wait until those are resolved because the town is Krabloonik's landlord, Dresser said.