Su Lum: Slumming |

Su Lum: Slumming

A local school principal steals away in the night. Now you see him, now he’s gone, and the entire administration buttons up their lips so tight they must have had to eat liquid meals through straws. Nobody knows nothin’, and if they do, they ain’t sayin’.

In the ad department at the Times, we used to be told that if a real estate ad didn’t list the price of a property the reader would estimate it at least 35 percent higher than it actually was.

Aspen residents knew that something spectacular must have happened for the principal to have disappeared without a word or a trace, but it was probably 35 percent less than our wildest imaginings. Either way, we’ll never know, but we’re still wondering.

My mother used to chant, “Tattletale tit, your tongue shall be slit, and every little dog in town will have a little bit.” The dogs of Aspen must be hungry because nobody is tattling, telling or even leaking.

Chris Hoofnagel disappears from the landfill and claims he never saw the report that got him fired. Poof, you’re in, poof, you’re out – new applicants take warning that that’s how we seem to be doing business these days in Happy Valley.

The most heinous example of a conspiracy of silence in recent history was the forced resignation of Basalt Police Chief Roderick O’Connor, reputedly one of the most beloved residents in the area. Judging by the flood of letters to the papers, he enjoyed a popularity that was close to that of the legendary Bob Braudis.

Secret informants, secret investigation and – shazam – he resigns with a substantial severance payout and no charges made. And nobody knows nothin’. Never came before the Basalt Town Council – council members say they’ve never even seen the report that put him on administrative leave. This stinks so much they can smell it in Denmark.

As I (sadly) found out when I retired from The Aspen Times, you don’t get severance pay if you quit. You get severance pay when the powers that be want you out and don’t want you to sue them or say anything. Or if, as Steve Barwick negotiated, it’s part of your contract.

Did Colorado Mountain College President Stan Jensen have a contract that gave him half a million dollars if he quit? If so, is that good use of taxpayers’ money? And what did he do that was so bad that it was worth $500,000 to get rid of him? Another little mystery.

What trump card did the Aspen Art Museum hold to get fast-track approval of its monstrosity in progress? What’s going on with the women in the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office?

We’re groping in the dark trying to find out the names behind the nasty anti-hydroplant campaign who are hiding behind Rosa Parks, claiming that they could be as damaged as Parks’ backers in the bus boycott if their names were known – quite a stretch, from strange fruit to trying to buy elections.

Speaking of mysteries and hiding, a quick glance at the real estate transactions would indicate that the name of most of the buyers in the area is “LLC.” Would that be Mr. or Ms. LLC?

Mason and Morse and Coldwell Banker merged and then recently got bought out by Ajax Holdings, a private investment company headed by Brook Peterson “and a handful of locals who requested not to be identified” (Aspen Daily News).

They buy up one of, if not the biggest, real estate offices in Aspen. Why wouldn’t they want to be identified? Unless it’s Garfield and Hecht, which needs no more publicity.

Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks it’s time to stand up and be counted and stop the subterfuge. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at

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