W/J Ranch spokesman issues apology to commissioners | AspenTimes.com

W/J Ranch spokesman issues apology to commissioners

Allyn Harvey

Sha Cohen, longtime representative for W/J Ranch, stunned all five county commissioners yesterday when he stood up and issued an apology for his behavior and attitude.

“I just want to apologize to the board and the staff for anything I’ve said that may have insulted them, and I want to apologize for wasting everyone’s time,” Cohen said.

Cohen, whose bombastic retorts became a regular part of nearly every public hearing over the last year concerning the Woody Creek-area ranch, said he is no longer working for its owner, John Musick, and expects to be evicted from the ranch sometime soon.

Cohen had been Musick’s most staunch defender in recent months, quick to challenge anyone who portrayed his boss in an unfavorable light. Now, Cohen, who was visibly embarrassed, is accusing Musick of failing to pay the wages he is due. He declined to give an amount when asked by Commissioner Mick Ireland how much he was owed, but said it was a “significant amount.”

Cohen urged the commissioners to reject an application to put cellular telephone equipment and an antenna in a barn at the ranch, noting that the building was still being used illegally as a rental unit without any of the approvals or inspections required in the county code. The board complied with his request later in the hearing, denying the company’s application and directing staff to make sure the illegal unit is vacated.

Cohen went on to suggest that Musick’s claim that there was broad support for a recall election against three county commissioners was mostly hot air. “If John Musick has ever spoken to 1,500 people, it’s to 1,500 people he owes money to,” he said.

The apology was met with outbursts of joy, and put smiles on the faces of nearly every county employee and elected official in the room. “I just want to exchange apologies, because I know we’ve had confrontations that made both of us feel bad,” said Ireland. The other commissioners applauded Cohen for his “bravery,” in coming forward and admitting he was wrong.

John Musick could not be reached for comment.

Cohen’s remarks came right after another former W/J manager, David Schoenberger, spoke against the city’s takeover of the housing office, and just ahead of passionate speeches by two commissioners about the drive to remove them from office.

Although Schoenberger wasn’t there to take potshots at his former employer, his comments on the city takeover did put Commissioner Leslie Lamont on the defensive.

Earlier in the meeting, the board approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Aspen and the housing authority that places much the housing authority’s administrative functions under control of the city manager’s office. After several minutes of questions and answers, Lamont told Schoenberger that if he wanted to find out the legal basis for the board’s decision he should ask the county attorney or the city attorney. Schoenberger promised he would.

Then, Commissioner Dorothea Farris spent five minutes criticizing the recall effort initiated earlier this summer by anti-government gadfly Jeffrey Evans.

She said she had been out of town for three weeks and was stunned to return to a recall effort that is in full swing. She was especially taken aback by the newspaper advertisements taken out by Evans and his cohorts. Farris urged the electorate stay focused on the important issues on this fall’s ballot. She also vowed not to spend a dime fighting the recall effort.

Ireland, on the other hand, said he’d gladly accept contributions from anyone willing to offer support in the recall fight.

The senior commissioner whipped out an abstract of state election results dating back to the late 1800s and read the Pitkin County results on five separate elections, beginning in 1980, on campaign finance and spending limits. In all five, two of them state ballot questions and three local county charter amendment questions, the electorate overwhelmingly supported limits on contributions and spending.

Ireland proceeded to accuse Evans of violating the voters’ will, and mandate, on campaign-finance reforms, citing a letter written by Evans bragging of the financial support he has received in his efforts to derail construction of a valleywide rail and remove four commissioners from office.

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