Blumenthal: Go back to the town manager drawing board

Mel Blumenthal
Second View
Mel Blumenthal

For those of you who might have been concerned, I made it back to Santa Monica last week safe and sound, and from the comfort of my abode near the beach, I plan to keep abreast of all the craziness going on in the village during mud season.

From what I’ve observed since I’ve been back home, not much has changed during the winter months here in the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, nor does it appear that much in the way of change is on the horizon for Snowmass Village during the next few months.

Although Related is poised to soon commence completion of the Viceroy condo/hotel complex, nothing else in Base Village will see any action, except perhaps the new Clark’s Market Express, which appears to be Related’s half-assed attempt to appease those of us who still are pissed off regarding their unceremonious outing of the Village Market after 35 years of friendly and devoted service to our community.

For those of you sticking around the village during the next few months, the traditionally quiet days of spring will likely be broken up by all the cat fighting going on in Town Hall.

All of this distasteful political maneuvering is very reminiscent of the current state-of-affairs in Washington politics, but it’s not the stuff expected of our local system of governance.

As I left town, several residents along with, rumor has it, one or more council members, had reportedly commenced a search to identify a prominent local to front a campaign to recall Councilman Chris Jacobson. Chris has ruffled the feathers of several of his council colleagues with his strong and vocal opposition to their desire to indefinitely continue the impractical and overly expensive part-time consulting contract with Gary Suiter that the three-member council majority implemented late last year due to its inability to convince Suiter to take on the role of town manager on a full-time basis.

As a result of Suiter’s adamant position that he would not accept the full-time position without the consensus of the entire council, representatives of the three-member council majority negotiated with Suiter behind the scenes, opening up the town coffers and giving him whatever it took to get him to agree to a nonexclusive part-time position as interim town manager. All of this appears to have been done in order for the majority to gain enough time to engineer a replacement for one or both of their colleagues who were and still are opposed to engaging Suiter as the full-time town manager.

Jason Haber, the second council member on the minority side of this issue, is up for re-election next November, and members of the majority are beginning to put out feelers for possible candidates, if any, to defeat Haber assuming he chooses to run. The only apparent qualification is whether their favored candidate would be inclined to retain Suiter as town manager.

Until now, Suiter has repeatedly stated he will not accept the job unless he has the consensus of the entire council, which in most municipalities similar to ours is the norm. However, contrary to Suiter’s public statements on the issue, I’ve recently learned that a back-room deal is in the works between Suiter and one or more members of the council majority, whereby Suiter will accept the full-time position if a super majority, four out of five council members, are in favor of offering him the position. Thus the attempt to recall Jacobson, who is not up for re-election, and/or replacing Haber next November — and so much for Suiter’s credibility.

All of this distasteful political maneuvering is very reminiscent of the current state-of-affairs in Washington politics. Private meetings held under questionable legal authority, such as the one that occurred this week with the council’s executive search consultant, which was likely in violation of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law, are another example of the majority’s intent to extend Suiter’s part-time interim status until well after swearing in a new council in the first quarter of next year.

The three-member majority has the power and authority to hire Suiter as the full-time town manager notwithstanding opposition to their choice from Messrs. Haber and Jacobson, the council’s hand-picked advisory committee and most members of the community who have spoken out on the issue.

Standing in the way of the majority accomplishing their goal up to this point has been Suiter, who has continually refused their entreaties without a consensus of the full council.

If the stories of a secret deal in the works are true, local politics are likely to get a lot dirtier in the months ahead as various members of the Town Council begin a campaign to clean out the minority opposition to their single-minded decision making process.

From the community’s standpoint, it would be in the best interests of the community to stop all the childish antics and maneuvering going on behind the scenes and immediately recommence the search for a highly qualified individual to serve as the full-time town manager — one who would have the full backing and support of the entire council.

I welcome your thoughts on this matter at