Pitkin County candidate forum sees sparks
September 26, 2008
WOODY CREEK ” An otherwise polite and temperate political forum heated up momentarily when incumbent Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley lambasted his opponent, former commissioner Shellie Roy, for her claims during the introductory comments portion of the forum.
The event, at the Woody Creek Community Center, was the second public forum featuring the candidates for three seats on the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) in the Nov. 4 general election.
Six candidates are vying for three seats. Owsley and Roy face each other in District 3 (Aspen and the upvalley precincts), while incumbent Jack Hatfield is running against challenger Bruce Anderson in District 4 (Snowmass Village to Basalt).
In District 5 (Redstone and the other remote northern areas of the county), incumbent Dorothea Farris cannot seek reelection due to term limits, and her seat is being sought by Dee Malone and George Newman.
Roy and Owsley were the last pairing to speak during the opening segment of the
forum, sponsored by the Woody Creek Caucus, of which Owsley was a long-time member before being elected to the BOCC.
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Roy, in her introductory remarks, was listing her record and what she felt were her accomplishments when she said, “I was able to deliver Smuggler Mountain into open space,” referring to the county’s recent purchase of numerous mining claims dotting the mountain that looms to the north and east over Aspen.
Owsley, however, challenged her assertion, saying angrily, “Smuggler became open space while I was in office, not Shellie. Shellie was the broker. For her to try to get credit for Smuggler is just ridiculous.”
Continuing along that theme, he accused Roy of using knowledge she gained while she was a commissioner to make money for herself and her client, the late George “Wilk” Wilkerson, who owned the Smuggler claims. Roy became a real estate agent after being defeated by Owsley in 2004, and brokered the $15 million sale to Pitkin County in 2005.
“It was a breach of trust,” Owsley charged, tossing out other accusations about Roy’s campaign claims and calling her brochure “all distortions,” full of “half-truths, untruths and exaggerations.”
Because of the format of the event, Roy did not answer Owsley’s charges at the forum.
But afterward she said of the Smuggler accusations, “They weren’t true. I was in a lucky place at a lucky time.” She explained that the brokerage where she worked had been trying to get the Smuggler listing for some time, and that Wilkinson, who was seriously ill, told her he wanted to list it with her.
And, she said, “I was not able to use anything I knew. John Ely [Pitkin County attorney] was very careful to see that anything I knew did not enter into the negotiations.”
But, she conceded, “I can see why that would be hurled at me. I’m running against him, for pete’s sake!”
As for his remarks about her claims in her campaign brochure, Roy said that she has been told by two of Owsley’s fellow commissioners, Patti Clapper and Dorothea Farris, that he “won’t take State assignments,” meaning he declines to serve on committees and other bodies at the state level, as a representative of Pitkin County.
Owsley, reached after the forum, said he serves on one state-level committee, Colorado Counties Incorporated, and added, “There are no state assignments. There are some committees that people are on that are sort of lobbying committees.”
He said the BOCC has been talking about those committees, and whether they are worth the cost to the county. For example, he said, having a representative sit on the governing committee of the Northwest Council of Governments costs the county $57,000 a year. And the CCI membership costs $20,000 a year, he said.
He also noted that he sits on a number of local committees, including the Ruedi Water and Power committee, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and, as an alternate, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board.
The remainder of the forum touched on a variety of subjects, including some that drew agreement from nearly every candidate, such as support for the concept of keeping urban-style development with the “urban growth boundaries” that surround the municipalities in the valley.
Only Roy disagreed, arguing that the county should consider development of affordable housing outside the UGB if that is the only place that land is available.