Aspen Times editorial: Negotiating with man facing eviction undermines Aspen housing authority’s integrity
Whether Lee Mulcahy gets what he wishes for in his fight to keep his home at Burlingame Ranch, he already has won his personal battle to make it political.
So concerned about Mulcahy’s veiled threats — he’s publicly used “Remember the Alamo” on multiple occasions — a certain group of elected officials and bureaucrats have been secretly enticing Mulcahy and his mother with financial perks to peacefully exit their property.
We can only gather that Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board chair John Ward, County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury, County Manager Jon Peacock and City Manager Sara Ott have meant well having these discussions. We are mystified, however, over why they would take such steps that financially benefit Mulcahy, alienate APCHA’s executive team and infuriate taxpayers and those who follow the housing rules.
These secret negotiations have been happening in the aftermath of more than four years of litigation to the tune of $145,000 in legal fees for the agency in which the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has won at every turn to force Mulcahy to sell his deed-restricted home at Burlingame. For all intents and purposes, the case is closed, and a qualified, working family would add to the Aspen community by living in a house that has no place for scofflaws and the entitled.
Now, the process should be academic: The court has said Mulcahy and his mother must leave the home because the younger Mulcahy has failed to prove he has worked enough hours in Pitkin County to quality for affordable housing.
Yet Mulcahy is a man of highly suggestive rhetoric, which is clearly a concern and not to be taken lightly in this day and age.
For years, Mulcahy has steadily fed the public with vendetta-loaded remarks about what he calls a corrupt APCHA and equally corrupt city and county governments that pander to the liberal set. His comments are troubling, yet that should not mean he receives special treatment because he’s a wild card who spouts off about the Wild West, Tea Party politics and Second Amendment rights.
We hope Mulcahy is just pushing buttons and does not intend to cause harm to anyone in our community. We trust law enforcement to manage this situation just like they would any other threat that we can’t just pay our way out of.
If the police need to be on standby during the Mulcahy eviction process, then so be it. If they need to have a strategic plan to handle this situation, we support that too, despite the potentially ugly and unfortunate scene of a man and his mother being evicted from their home.
But as recent developments have shown, political forces are clearly at play, evidenced by those board members who overstepped their authority by going around APCHA’s top officials to start bargaining with Mulcahy, while the county manager has been a willing participant.
This deal coming to fruition will establish a precedent that any resident who loses a court case with APCHA can finagle more money in the name of a peaceful exit.
It will erode APCHA’s credibility that had been sorely in need of fixing until Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky began focusing on compliance and enforcement.
And even without the deal and with a peaceful exit by the Mulcahy family, the recent ex-parte discussions already have compromised APCHA’s integrity — which had been unfairly questioned and inaccurately criticized by some during this entire process.
Kosdrosky and APCHA could become the big losers in this entire episode, which once again brings into question how it is managed when board members and city and county managers meddle with the organization’s affairs behind its director’s back.
We urge government officials to stop negotiating with Mulcahy immediately and hold him accountable to the program’s rules just like everyone else has to. It’s time for Mulcahy to move on and for a qualifying family to move in.
The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.
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