Aspen government ‘controlling’ building access to local man involved in lawsuit
The City of Aspen alleges bad behavior demonstrated by Aspen resident Lee Mulcahy in its letter. It included:
• Writings and other items, including bomb-shaped cutouts, displayed on the property where you reside that have caused fear to members of your community
• bullying behavior and verbal abuse demonstrated through social media postings and personal interactions
• threats to harm police and sheriff officers should an eviction from your residence occur
• attempts to affect governmental operations through untruthful allegations
• a violent threat toward the executive director of APCHA
• a statement to an Aspen Police officer that you can sneak up on employees in City Hall
• made threats to building department employees
— From the city’s Feb. 1, 2018 notice of rules regarding expectations related to communication and conduct
A local government critic who is embroiled in a lawsuit with the city of Aspen is being restricted on how he can access two government buildings and public officials.
On Thursday morning, local police delivered a letter to Lee Mulcahy at his Burlingame home informing him that he cannot enter City Hall and municipal offices at the Mill Building without first making an appointment with one of three specific contacts.
The move, which is unprecedented in local government, was made under the auspices of the city of Aspen protecting its employees and the public. The letter, which is signed by City Manager Steve Barwick, reads: “You have demonstrated behaviors that have crossed the boundaries of the city of Aspen’s policy for a safe work environment.”
The letter mentions, among other things, Mulcahy’s alleged threats to building department employees and law enforcement officers, and bullying behavior and verbal abuse via social media postings and personal interactions.
Mulcahy denied all of the city’s claims regarding his behavior but said he was not surprised when Aspen police officers Bill Linn and Rick Magnuson delivered the three-page letter.
“This is the city of Aspen using the police as political Stormtroopers,” he said. “I will comply with this while my attorney decides whether this complies with the Colorado Constitution.”
According to city officials, it is not their desire to prohibit Mulcahy from government officials or buildings but is part of a larger goal to protect the people inside of them.
“We want to lay out expectations and communicate clearly with people who have concerned us,” Assistant Police Chief Linn said. “We are not obstructing his access but controlling it.”
The city’s new “rules regarding expectations related to communication and conduct” comes less than a week before the board of directors for the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA) and its attorney meet in executive session to discuss their lawsuit against Mulcahy.
In September, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the Pitkin County District Court’s decision in June 2016 that Mulcahy must sell his house because he ran afoul of APCHA eligibility rules. He has filed to ask the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case.
APCHA has said that Mulcahy is not eligible to keep his home because he has not worked the required nine months per year (1,500 hours) in Pitkin County. APCHA, which originally filed suit against Mulcahy in December 2015, also has contended he has not used the home as his full-time residence.
Mulcahy, who bought an undeveloped lot through the local housing lottery for $150,000 in 2006 and built the home “with his own two hands,” has said his work as an artist makes him eligible to keep his home.
Under the new restrictions, Mulcahy on Thursday asked via email for appointments to make public comment at the Feb. 7 APCHA meeting and the Feb. 12 City Council meeting.
Whether Mulcahy has legitimate business with the city has to be determined by either Assistant City Manager Sara Ott, Jack Wheeler, the city’s capital asset manager, or Magnuson, an Aspen police sergeant. If so, one of those appointed representatives will arrange for Mulcahy’s entry and exit of the building.
He will be allowed to attend public meetings but they have to be arranged prior. He has to be accompanied by a city employee or police officer at all times within City Hall.
Mulcahy remains banned from the APCHA office. Barwick’s letter cites a “violent threat toward” Mike Kosdrosky, the agency’s executive director. That ban stems from an incident at a Basalt restaurant in September 2016.
If Mulcahy violates any of the rules outlined in the letter, additional boundaries and restrictions may need to be implemented, or he could be arrested. Linn said that could take the shape of trespassing or harassment but refrained from specifics.
“It would be a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Linn said there was no triggering event that precipitated the city to restrict Mulcahy but rather it is an outgrowth of a monthslong effort to better secure city offices and institute a workplace safety policy.
The city has enlisted John Nicoletti, a Denver-based public safety psychologist, to help with its growing security measures. He also consulted on the Mulcahy matter, according to city officials.
Barwick said while these individual restrictions may be unprecedented locally, it is not the first time it’s been done around the country. He noted that governments throughout the United States have limited access to their buildings in an era of mass shootings and amid a mental-health crisis.
“We do not want to lock up our government offices or build fortresses but deal with it on an individual basis,” Barwick said. “It’s been a growing concern.”
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