New PAC Forming To Challenge Telluride Council
by Peter Kenworthy
Dec 22, 2005 | 374 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A new Political Action Committee is organizing to challenge the Telluride Town Council in its recent resolution to stay the Valley Floor condemnation action. Members of the PAC, to be known as the Committee to Save the Valley Floor Again, also hope to force disclosure of a seven-page draft agreement that is said to have been negotiated between the town and the San Miguel Valley Corporation, and that allegedly serves as the basis for the council's unanimous vote on Dec. 14 to postpone condemnation proceedings for nine months.

According to Tom Tatum, an unofficial spokesperson for the planned PAC, a "loose steering committee" came together on a preliminary basis Wednesday night and, as its first business, resolved to open a bank account to hold contributions.

In a phone interview, Telluride developer (and former chair of the Town's Planning and Zoning Commission), Michael Zivian confirmed that a new PAC is planned and that he is charged with setting it up. He further confirmed that a bank account had been opened and that the PAC would seek to force inspection of relevant documents and records of the town that have, thus far, been kept secret. Zivian would not divulge whom he anticipates will become members of the PAC. He did say that the local environmental group Sheep Mountain Alliance is not involved at this time.

According to Tatum, Telluride attorney John Steel (a former Telluride mayor) will provide legal advice to the PAC. In copies of correspondence provided to The Watch by Tatum between Steel and the Town of Telluride, and between Steel and the mediation judge in the case between the town and SMVC, Kim Goldberger, Steel has requested "all tapes or other records of the proceedings and other materials used at all Executive Sessions of the Town" in connection with the condemnation action. Steel's request has been denied by the town based on attorney-client privilege and on the mediation judge's order for confidentiality. In a letter to Steel from Goldberger, the federal judge confirmed that he "directed both parties not to release any of these documents."

Steel has replied to Judge Goldberger in writing saying that he "must respectfully and emphatically dissent from" the judge's position. Steel goes on to say that, while he understands that mediation sessions are confidential, he believes the law requires public disclosure of an "action and basis therefore" that results from mediation. If the town executed an actual document as a result of its mediation meetings with SMVC, Steel argues that he sees "nothing in the Open Records Act" that allows the town to keep such a document secret.

Steel closes his message to Goldberger, dated Dec. 19, with these words: "I would very much like to have the authority on which you relied in prohibiting disclosure of documents which at this point appear to bind the Town. Additionally, if this goes any further, I will probably question your jurisdiction as a mediation judge to determine Town issues under the Open Records Act. If these documents are not produced, I will have no choice but to petition the court for their release."

Steel has confirmed that he is preparing to advise the town that he will be filing an action against it in district court. He said he expects the suit to be initiated early next week.
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