Friday, December 31, 2010

Current Watch: "Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Assoc. citizen's investigation summarizes 2010's 'Watch'"

A year ago, 'smalltown 7' summarized the first year of the 'Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association' with a post from the two founding members of their group. 

 'glenwoodsprings22' and his wife 'gws44'. That post and the resulting comments from the community is now hard copy archived for evidentiary purposes in the future.

'22' spoke from his heart as he told the story of what prompted them to step forward. 

There were many points brought to light in that post. 

The resultant comments and emails that locals and others sent in were overwhelming. 

And, as rightful things always do, contained the last remaining pieces of the puzzle to enable this group to accomplish what they have this year.  After watching us for months, your trust that you really did have a SafePlace, paid off in the end.

That was also the post that brought SafePlaceBlogs to national non-profit watch-dog attention and our statistics soared along with our rankings getting to the top of internet searches. 

With your insights and facts as fuel, that rise to visibility turned the tide for the citizens of 81601 and eventually for all whistleblowers on GSCRA.

As 'smalltown7' met today to discuss strategy for the upcoming year on this 'Current Watch', all agreed that the strongest point made in last year's summary remains the strongest point to summarize how very far they have come. 

That point is one that these very good people saw and instantly knew they could not turn their backs again.  Knew that their standing up  to finish what a community actually began well over fifteen years earlier, was imperative in it's need and unyielding in it's demand.

That point, was the watching of a crew of hispanic masons, who had not been paid in months.  Who were forced to work hungry and frozen in exterior sub-zero temperatures for days.  For the sole purpose of attempting to satisfy an obvious insatiable greed from the project's owner.  With hungry children at home and on through Christmas Day of 2008, those men worked at what would end up being an effort in vain as that project rolled over the course of the upcoming months. 

As 'glenwoodsprings22' sat idling in his warm truck, watching these men he had known for years help each other move their frozen limbs as they lifted stone after heavy stone, an unyielding resolve ignited into a flame that would alter his life forever.  That flame was the realization that there comes a time in everyone's life where they must act for the sake of others.

That project's owner was Marianne Virgili, President, CEO and Executive Director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

From that now epochal moment, this group of seven tackled a problem within Glenwood Springs so entrenched in multi-faceted issues, the web spun around it daunted everyone who had tried before them until they simply gave up.

First taking the steps to attempt discreet handling for the sake of a community with need for no further scandal on those issues. 

At that failure, empowering others to step forward and share what they knew with them. 

With the next step being the need to move out into the open, they attempted local media.  That media that would later go on to reveal as being one of the greatest contributing factors in cover-up on these issues.  Due to their asleep at the wheel apathy and loss of journalistic integrity, they failed their community and this group.

Sitting on top of a Jobox on a construction site, four members + one sketched out a three-sided strategy.  With the need for only that one point of '22's' to be accomplished, that strategy basically amounted to a '3-sided pen'.  One strong enough to first corral and then hold the elements needed to finally accomplish getting the problems they faced under control until authorities would act.

That 'pen' has it's base side as the unyielding truth.  A very basic strategy that sooner or later and despite human nature that holds free will to make wrong choices, the truth of the accommodations tax issues and what five women whistles and their lives had endured, would prevail.

By that time, law had been broken by those wanting SafePlace and it's harbor suppressed.  Lives were being harmed by others in obvious ways and at an obvious hand.  Through the anonymity of safety within SafePlace to Whistle blow, a community strengthened and created this blog and their commenting in as the second side to the 'pen'. 

The next step that led to the third and final 'side' of this now unbreakable corral was given by human nature. 

Human nature that when facing the beast inside a bully, puts it's head down and gives up.  With the result then being a back turned and a blind eye  overpowering the awareness of right from wrong.

In the case of this 'Current Watch,' the dual factor of that problem was our local print media being one of the sectors falling prey to it.  Obstruction of voices began to occur.   'smalltown7' encouraged and helped create blog media that allowed for the tracking of daily regional news and allowed free speech in commentary.

With their own media and the 'pen' tracking the problem within the Chamber, freedom was able to come to the voice of the common man and the sub-community of 81601.  Who then went on to see the following accomplished in 2010 on this 'Current Watch on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association': 

  • From 1/1/10 through to early September, a historic new board, with unprecedented power and representation of the citizens of the community was seated.  Marking an end to upwards of an estimated 14 million dollars in public revenues, over the span of 23 years, never undergoing a forensic audit and being continually left with little to often no oversight in the hands of a private non-profit and that board of hand-picked directors.
  • Within a little over 60 days that board revised the control over spending of those funds by the still held marketing vendor of the Chamber.
  • Within a little less than 90 days that board sent the very strong and powerful message that allowing public funds to remain with no forensic and outside oversight would no longer be tolerated.  They sent down the mandate to City Council that the accounting and handling of marketing funds from the acccommodations tax would be under the control of the board and an outside accounting firm of their choice.
As the year now rolls over, GSCRA has been awarded one last year of the tourism marketing contract.  All future years will see, for the first time ever, an RFP issued on this contract.  The board to remain in charge.

'smalltown7' sees the following needs for SafePlace remaining as they wind down 2010:

1.   The accommodations tax revenues and the tourism marketing of 81601 is in excellent hands now.  Under a City Council oversight that has much needed elections coming up in April of 2011, politics can never play as influential of a role as they have in past years.  The citizens, under Ordinance #12, series of 2010, are now in charge.

2.  Come April 1, 2011 the bookkeeping and accounting from the Chamber will be removed from the Chamber Board's hands and placed into third-party control.  By relying once again on 'side #1' of their pen, 'smalltown7' believes truth will prevail with the eventual validation of all whistles.  In the event there is a continued lack of  authority's doing their jobs, and stepping in with the strength of prosecutorial powers to investigate; the remaining two 'sides' of small's 'pen',  will be keeping an eye on progress as the conversion is made.

3.   The board has now placed themselves in the micro-management position of oversight on how the 2011 marketing funds are spent.  Spending and the use of credit is one of the major whistle complaints over the years. Rightfully so as those whistles are the ones suffering the wrath of the Chamber in retaliation for speaking up.  As the next few City Council meetings unfold alongside other related due processes,  there is still the issue of the supposedly civic event of  Strawberry Days to be reined in.  There is also the still remaining issue of repayment for the bail-out given to the funds when the Chamber ran the grant funds dry in Spring 2010.

From a long, long list of your concerns brought forward to SafePlace and 'smalltown7' over two years ago, we are now down to those two remaining issues being the only true issues surrounding public funds.

The third and also the few remaining concerns over GSCRA, Virgili and the accumulated past we feel will likely run a natural death course (or) end up in the hands of our community's new Tourism Promotion Board.  After this last stand by the board, we are highly confident they recognize all the issues and the dynamic of what they face in 2011.

As for the crew of hispanic masons so symbolic to an entire community, their plight and the plight of the five women whistles spanning over 12 years draws to a positive close for them and their families. 

You have noticed the decrease in posts on SafePlace over these months.  We have been slowly rounding to full circle and returning to what 'smalltown7' had forcibly taken out of their hands in 2009 and 2010 by Virgili and the Chamber.

What was taken out of their hands was their choice for discretion and quiet handling of the clean-up of a core so ugly it tainted a town. 

That was the original desire of these people who love their community deeply. 

The feeling of 'smalltown7' is that they now claim a belated victory in that effort as well. 

The wailing and crying of a chamber board, former tourism board and former council members that do not care to bring the darkness of years into the public light, is back full circle in those same folks hands that are doing the wailing. 

A community has held them accountable and exposed core concerns.

All of the people, including whistles and small have simply stood back and let the base of the pen run it's natural course. 

'smalltown7'  and 81601 would have by far preferred discretion of their problems over two years ago.

'smalltown7' takes the win.

Only the reporting of progress as we head down the home stretch will now be reported on this 'Current Watch:  Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association'. 

smalltown7 keeps talking.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association: "New tourism oversight board mandates accounting of public funds be removed from chamber control"

smalltown7 commends the new Tourism Promotion Board for their recommendations to the city on December 16, 2010.

Requiring that the following changes be made before they would endorse recommending that the city keep it's verbal word from early 2010 to award the 2011 tourism marketing contract to the chamber.
  • Board oversight on every contract and sub-contract that GSCRA enters into on behalf of tourism promotion.
  • Accounting for any public monies in GSCRA's control for tourism promotion be pulled from the in-house methods controlled by the GSCRA staff and board of directors.  Moving instead to a private accountant to be determined by the Tourism Promotion Board.
With Councilman McKinney being the only absent vote, City Council, at their regularly scheduled meeting last night  unanimously  voted to accept the requirements of the new oversight board.

Locals have been aware, since mid-November, that the new board found it necessary to call for the ability to hold executive session meetings as needed.  No surprise to all who know the inner-workings of the protracted relationship between the decades old marketing contract held by the chamber and city council. 

Other changes over the past few months where tourism oversight and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association are concerned are transparency and accountability requirements.

  • Public disclosure of tourism board minutes have never been available without an act of God or Congress to get them out of the hands of chamber staff.  Since the onset of the first tourism board, unilateral control was held by the chamber in selecting the board members, setting the agenda and controlling the minutes in-house.  At any time, during City Hall hours, anyone may view the minutes of the tourism board meetings now that they are city controlled by the new oversight board.  City clerks can help you access.  Another change in logistics is the posting of board meeting dates will now be done on the city calendar.

  • Accountability for the types of promotion done by the chamber, as the current marketing vendor has also occured.   Locals have watched the glimpses given at city council meetings of the new board  vetoing gimmick type promotions and admin expenditures.  Instead obviously choosing to head more in a direction conducive to less fat in the administration of the contract  and more substance in promoting draws rather than gimmick promotions.
  • Once the 2011 contract and the 2010 verbal concede to give that contract to the chamber is completed, all future contracts are to be done under RFP process and competitive award. 

Overall, safeplace is exceptionally pleased with the strength and also the courage of this new board.  Thank you, from the many citizens within 81601 who have encouraged you for close to two years now.

smalltown7 keeps talking.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association: "Marianne Virgili, President and CEO"

Today’s post is brought by two former employees of the Glenwood Chamber.

“On the 27th day of September 2010, legally upheld confirmation was received that Marianne Virgili, President and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, admitted in June 2009 to engaging in a pattern of deliberate and targeted destruction of a local business and family for a period of five months from February to June 2009.

Further revealed as legally upheld is Virgili’s leadership, encouragement and orchestration during this same span of time, of two other women to band together a pattern of their gossip and previously discredited allegations against this family and their business, spanning from Fall 2007 through 2008.

This company targeted was owned by the latest whistle blower on Virgili and the Chamber. This family a local family consisting of a woman and her four young adult children. This woman is the whistle on Marianne Virgili that began coming forward aprx. New Year’s day of 2009.

“smalltown7's unconditional support, thoughts and prayers go out to this family as they struggle to not only gather their lives in the face of tragedy but continue to seek justice for their own and their responsibilities.”


Today, smalltown7 carries on with a loud whistle on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association by asking the following:

“What have we seen in changes at the City of Glenwood Springs since February 4th, 2010 when the minutes at the end of this post were the high point of that City Council meeting?”

Those minutes make for an interesting read given what we now have lived through in the months since.

smalltown7 has decided to post them again at the end of this post.

First, our comments on the current status of the 2011 Tourism marketing plan:
• In our view, the information on tourism does not pass litmus. A reminder that can be verified below in the 2/4 minutes that there is strong discontent with the lack of results we have seen out of tourism promotion since 2007. It is highly debatable whether or not effective use of marketing funds has taken place. According to council packet, this budget and plan has now been through one round of the new tourism board, where a good deal of the initial presentation was scuttled and funds moved around to be more effective. Great move and news and we thank our new board. We hope that you will make many more changes as the months unfold. We have high confidence in you.

• It’s noted again how little real information there is in these outputs from the current marketing vendor in the Chamber. There is no data. No meat, no substance. It is repeated and flashy power point presentations that we have seen time and time again. There are a few good events coming in and we are glad for that. It is not enough and certainly not an effective use of funds. We call on our new board to not be passive. Be pro-active. If necessary, meet more often and possibly without the marketing vendor attending. That has always been and remains a huge conflict of interest. The vendor on board should have no access to the decision making for the contract and contract execution of disbursing funds, in any way.

Let’s talk now about what changes we have seen since the 2/4/10 minutes below:

• From that February meeting through September 2010, conflict after conflict with the Chamber and tourism fund.
• the grant fund was run dry
• the budget overspent
• a historic new tourism oversight and promotion board put into place with the old disbanded
• City Council put fully in charge of board selections and disbursements of funds
• controls placed on tourism entities for term limits and input
• an empowered Council that no longer just sits and takes at face value what it is told by the Chamber.
• a region with a concentrated focus on our community, unfortunately now facing at least a year more of global media recognition from the entire range of what has been done to a local family.

• We have seen the allowance of biased and censored coverage in the local media.
• We have seen such outcry from the community over that bias that our local newspaper is now seeking new editorial management with previous management taking a “mental” leave of absence.

• We have seen the resignation of Kate Collins from the Chamber with no equal caliber of replacement.

• We have seen a community grow to full awareness and empowerment of themselves against an issue of lack of oversight on tourism that has existed yet swept under a rug for close to two decades.

• We have seen our Chamber Board of Directors still keep the same state of mind on the surface, as Mr. Sanderson has below in the 2/4 minutes.

• We have seen a community support by either apathy or salivating over gossip and scandal; our city officials sitting back with public statements of their full support of all actions within the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

smalltown7 keeps talking.


From City Council meeting of 2/4/10:
“ITEM NO. 8 Discussion and/or Action Regarding Tourism Promotion Contract.
Mayor Christensen said Council needs to decide if, for 2011, this will continue as a sole source, non-competitive contract or if an RFP is needed. This is a large amount of public money and there needs to be a public discussion as to how it is allocated. The Chamber needs to know as soon as possible which way the City will go.
Kate Collins, Vice-President of Tourism Marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber appeared with Steve Beckley of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, incoming Chairman of the Tourism Board, and Bill Sanderson from Alpine Bank, past Chairman of the Glenwood Chamber and current Boardmember. She said she would like Council to continue the contract with the Glenwood Springs Chamber. The City has been partners with the Chamber in the stewardship of the Tourism Funds and the tourism business which is the City’s largest economic driver. The Glenwood Springs Chamber is built on 22 years of managing this fund and is built on the strategies and infrastructure they developed. The last year has been difficult, but it has been less bad for Glenwood Springs than for other Colorado destinations due to having a great brand and product but also to the consistency of their marketing efforts. Their website sees 400,000 to 500,000 visitors per year with new visitors and longer visits. Their Central Reservations has one stop shopping and a conversion mechanism for marketing efforts. They have a leads database with 30,000 loyal visitors and prospects. Their PR person has a great reputation and rapport with travel writers and the employees are committed and talented. The Chamber knows the target market and has a continued theme that allows their message to evolve. She encouraged Council to view which was launched last week and includes three winter promotions: ski-swim-stay, ski-swim-spa and ski-swim-play. To coincide with Glenwood’s 125th Birthday, there are coupons to area attractions and restaurants for use on your 2010 birthday. There will soon be 220 new lodging rooms so they will need to work hard to try to fill occupancy over 12 months and now would be a risky time to put this out to bid. The City and the Chamber have grown as partners to make Glenwood a model mountain community. An RFP is inconsistent with the local preference policy. There are only 2 staff members that manage this contract and dealing with an RFP would take them from their core work. The Chamber operates the Visitor Information Center which saw 65,000 visitors in 2009. It takes training, commitment and patience to respond to visitors’ needs which then allows them to spend more money. The Chamber helps run events and they consider themselves the stewards of the brand. They would like to continue their contract and this partnership in 2011 and 2012.
Bill Sanderson, Alpine Bank Branch President and Chamber Boardmember, stated when he joined the Chamber 5 years ago there were discussions of putting this contract out for bid and allegations of misappropriation of funds. The Chamber and the Tourism Board came through with flying colors. They have diversified the Tourism Board by adding non-tourism members and have proven that keeping administration of the funds in-house has been very effective. He pledged his support to keep things as they have been.
Steve Beckley mentioned that the Tourism Board works closely with Council and has tried to accommodate their suggestions. He is excited about the things being done and encouraged Council to keep the 2011 and 2012 contracts with the Chamber.
Larry Emery said this has been an ongoing issue for many years. The Chamber does its best to promote Glenwood Springs but the issue is that $750,000 of public money is spent annually. How do you justify spending it on something that hasn’t been bid or seeing what is available? This is probably the largest budget item Council has control over and it is awarded to the Chamber every year. He said he takes exception with the Chamber saying they don’t have time for an RFP. They do an annual plan on how the $750,000 will be spent and probably have the facts and figures in place. These funds from the Glenwood Springs’ taxpayers are to be used to promote the City and it is left to Council’s discretion as to how best to spend the money. He received the audit results 5 years ago. This audit was not a forensic audit, just an analysis of the figures to make sure they added up.
Bob Campbell said he has worked a lot with Chamber staff. They are hard working, conscience and knowledgeable. He said he was impressed with their understanding of what works best for Glenwood Springs.
Councilor Steckler said he is the Council representative to the Tourism Board, knows what the Chamber does and is happy with their work. It’s a good idea to look at this from an RFP prospective, but there is a lot of learned knowledge and continuity. The Chamber knows what works and what doesn’t. From what he understands of the business there would be some risks of going with an outside entity. He said he doesn’t think it would be difficult for the Chamber to put together an RFP, but it would be difficult for an outside firm to compete. He said he is happy with how the money is spent, but would like broader input from the community, a more regional approach. He said he is happy with the status quo.
Councilor Bershenyi said he is conflicted because it is Council’s responsibility to do the best thing with the public’s money and they should be doing this through a more open process. The Chamber has done a wonderful job and has a quality product.
Councilor Kaup echoed the comments that this is not about performance of the contract. The Chamber’s main strength is an understanding of the product and the market to which Glenwood appeals. She said she is happy with the changes made to the Tourism Board. Council has a responsibility to make sure this money is spent prudently. She would like someone to analyze the impacts, benefits and costs of changing the structure of this contract before sending this to a RFP.
Councilor Sturges said everyone has reviewed the history, the Chamber product and the marketing. He said the Chamber’s marking work is high quality and consistent with its message. This is no longer just about the money. The Visitor Center is one of the best, from the location to the friendliness. He said someone from outside the area could not manage that responsibility so it should be separate from the RFP. The Chamber’s marketing plans have been professional and well documented. Staff raised a question about oversight and administration so, if Council decides to go through with it, he would like staff to come back with a proposed RFP. He wants to get the best marketing program that will bring in the best return.
Councilor McKinney reiterated that Council is the steward of the public money and it is a disservice if the money isn’t spent in an open and just manner. If it goes to bid it will likely go to the Chamber. He said most of the information should be in place for the Chamber to put together a bid and the money should stay local. He asked if this is the way it has always been done.
Mayor Christensen explained that it has been done like this for the last 22 years and prior to that it was administered by the City and bid out as an advertising contract. The amounts were much smaller.
Councilor McKinney said he is leaning toward putting it out for bid.
Councilor Arensman said he has served as Council liaison to the Chamber for the last 2 years and respects the people on the Chamber Board and all the volunteer efforts. They are doing a good job with the City’s tourism marketing and they understand the local attractions and appeal. If it isn’t broken don’t fix it. The City is getting good value for the money. The Tourism Board has improved its accountability, broadened the representation, and implemented conflict of interest waivers. They have allowed regional golf course promotions and that’s the type of regional marketing that needs done. If this goes out to bid front range companies could under-bid because they don’t have to pay the operating costs of living here and the City is trying to keep funds local. He said he supports not changing at this time, but would like more scrutiny. What does the $200,000 in overhead pay? This was an almost $800,000 budget which has shrunk to $600,000.
Mayor Christensen said Council would negligent to spend this amount of money without seeing what is available. If this was done with any other entity there would be public furor. The City has given the Chamber $2.8 million over the last 4 years to market Glenwood Springs. Council took an oath and is responsible to see what the alternatives are no matter how much they like the people here. The Tourism Board should be looking at all the regions’ resources and look at Glenwood as a gateway to them. Glenwood’s Chamber is paid to host Ride the Rockies, but none of the other western slope municipalities do that. The Chamber is paid to market Glenwood, but they can’t do an RFP because it will take time from marketing. That is unethical. There are things that need tightened up. The Chamber is paid $22,800 for rent under the contract, but the County provides the facility for free. He said he hopes an RFP would provide someone local, but if they continue with a sole-source and no bid contract, the oversight needs improved. The Tourism Board should not be appointed by the Chamber. The Chamber promotes Glenwood with a water theme yet pays dues to and supports the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which is trying to dry up the West. Other options must be explored.
Councilor Steckler said he agreed that maybe a different structure should be explored, but continuity is needed with a marketing entity. This wouldn’t be easy to bid, but an RFP could be explored. How costs are allocated through the Tourism Fund needs examined and an external auditing procedure is warranted. He said he is in favor of a more regional approach but likes the basic execution of the contract. This is public money so it shouldn’t be contentious and justifying how it is spent should be accepted as a matter of course.
Mayor Christensen explained that he personally has a problem when the Tourism Board wants to put the 20% into advertising. It is the one thing the community receives and it is spent wisely. Infrastructure needs built to enhance the community. The Tourism Board didn’t want to partner for downtown Christmas lights or on a better bus service.
Councilor Kaup said there are some valid questions with issues over the years, but will an RFP address them? She said there are advantages to having the contract local and involving community cooperation in marketing Glenwood Springs. If things need fixed, then look at the best way to address them.
Councilor Bershenyi reiterated that no one is denigrating the Chamber’s product, but it is Council’s fiduciary responsibility to the community to oversee these funds. The Chamber tonight has asked for the 2011 and 2012 contracts which are $l.4 million and he is unwilling to give blanket approval to an expenditure of that amount without a formal process.
Councilor Sturges said Council is executing their responsibility as prior Councils have. There are legitimate questions and he would like to better understand the issues of administration and oversight. It’s not as simple as requiring an RFP. There should be discussion with staff regarding the type of oversight and an RFP, review the proposal and then make a decision as to an RFP. If it is decided an RFP is needed, he is sure the Chamber will make a good argument that they can deliver what the City wants.
Councilor Arensman agreed that it is premature to go to an RFP now. If it goes to bid, a different form of governance will be needed and the ramifications need thought through. He said he would like to discuss the issues brought up tonight.
Mayor Christensen said the Chamber needs to know they will have the 2011 contract, then have the discussion sometime during this year.
Jeff Hecksel said the discussion tonight is not an approval of a contract, just a discussion and decision about issuing an RFP. This is a significant process with involving overlap and time to transition.
Councilor Kaup said if Council seriously considers going for an RFP, questions need to be answered about the implications, what type of changes would need to be made to administration and structure, etc.
Mayor Christensen said those are structural issues.
Councilor Steckler said an RFP is not simple. How is the RFP sculpted? What do you do with the infrastructure already in place? What about the marketing leads?
Jeff Hecksel said, from his perspective, those are losses that will have to be paid again when/if providers are changed. The investment to the website is gone and would have to be redone. The only way to get those costs is to go through an RFP.
Mayor Christensen said those are advantages to the current vendor and he is fine with that.
Councilor Bershenyi said those are work products produced using public funds so it should be the property of the City of Glenwood Springs.
Mayor Christensen and Jeff Hecksel disagreed.
Councilor McKinney suggested extending the contract for a year and having a worksession before June.
Councilor Sturges pointed out that renewing or continuing a contract is not the issue tonight. He asked if there was a date by which they need to decide who receives the contract.
Jeff Hecksel replied, it feeds into the budget and it would be preferable to have more time to minimize the disruption. Changing providers, especially when they involve the items in the memorandum, will cause disruption because development lead time is significant. He said he sees this as a political issue for Council and has no recommendations.
Councilor Sturges said there in an issue as to how the contract is administered and another one of oversight. He said Council should have a worksession to discuss what they want under an RFP.
Councilor McKinney said if this is the same conversation that’s been happening for 22 years. The right thing to do is put it out to bid because of Council’s obligation as public servants and nothing will change until that is done.
Councilor Steckler said if you lose 6 months marketing getting a new vendor up to speed it is a disservice to the community. It isn’t a tangible service.
Councilor Kaup said the decision should be how best to serve the City and it is not best served to lose marketing time in a down economy.
Mayor Christensen said it is on the agenda tonight because there is almost a year lead time. If there is ever going to be a change, it needs to be planned well in advance.
Councilor Bershenyi moved, seconded by Councilor Kaup, to direct staff to schedule a worksession to examine the ramifications of an RFP.
Councilor Steckler said he would like it amended to expand the scope to include structural issues with the existing approach.
Mayor Christensen said, in that case, the RFP would be for the 2012 contract.
Councilor Steckler asked if they were going ahead with the status quo for 2011.
Councilor Arensman answered, it doesn’t have to be status quo. There is the opportunity to interact with the Chamber and the Tourism Board during the entire next year.
Mayor Christensen said that’s a good thing then everybody can work through the issues and it can be a component of what happens in 2012.
Councilor Bershenyi amended his motion and Councilor Kaup amended her second to schedule a worksession to discuss the ramifications of an RFP for the 2012 contract and some of the structural and/or policy concerns with the current situation.
Council registered their votes on the electronic lighting system. The motion passed unanimously.”

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association: "Whistle Blowers spanning over a decade finally achieve victory in Glenwood Springs, Colorado"

On September 2nd, 2010, the Glenwood Springs City Council authorized the seating of nine individuals, who will now make up the first tourism oversight board in the history of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

While very disappointing to see that back-door politics have allowed three Chamber of Commerce seats to be held instead of ordinance required one seat.  To see three directly associated tourism industry seats to be held instead of ordinance required two seats.

While very encouraging to see two seats held by common citizens who are strong enough individuals to lend balance to the board.

The undeniable fact, that never again,  will there be any ability for zero transparency and accountability to the largest tax generated revenue base in the County of Garfield and the City of Glenwood Springs; is a victory that belongs to six women spanning the years of 1998-2010.

Tourism Business Representatives and Chamber of Commerce Board Member:
Steve Beckley
Ken Murphy (current Chamber Board of Directors)

Lodging Representatives:
John Bosco (Hot Springs Pool)
Peter Tijm (current Chamber Board of Directors)

Chamber Representative:
Carl Moak (current Chamber Board of Directors)

Citizen Representatives and current previous Tourism Board member:
Ian Exelberg (moves from long held seat on disbanded tourism board to new board)
Scott Hemmen
Don Gillespie
Judith Wilson

Collectively here at safeplace, we feel the chosen mix on the board will encounter a tougher road in attempting to bridge the chasm of the two factions that make up small business in the 81601 zip code.   This was a critical time to make appropriate choices that hold up under scrutiny. 

All on this board are good people.  It is the imbalance of weight in the carry-over of proven eyes that refused to see, proven ears that tuned out and proven courage that could not withstand coming under fire that will ultimately be the burden of the community to continue to carry. 

We also remain feeling that the small businesses and common citizens on the side of the rift that ultimately bears that burden are no longer at disadvantage.  The field is leveled now.   It just may take more time than your wishes shared with us hoped for.

In what started out as one voice almost twelve years ago, that raised collectively to global watch-dog attention today; the voices of the small have locked in awareness. 

When one believes in the power of good people unafraid to use the front door instead of the back, ultimately the good people win.

Good wishes, from the avatars of smalltown7 as this historic new board steps up.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association: "City council prepares to seat new tourism oversight and promotion board"

And their up!

Names of the candidates for Glenwood Springs historic new tourism promotion and oversight board are released:

Two of the following from tourism-related businesses:
Steve Beckley
Ian Exelbert
John Bosco
Trent Blizzard
Ken Murphy
Rob Jankovsky
John Zalinski

Two of the following representatives from lodging:
William Knapp
Peter Tijm

One from the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association:
Carl Moak

Four from the common man category:
Cindy Svatos
Don Gillespie
John Duven
Scott Hemmen
Judith Wilson
Darron Cloud

smalltown7 recommends the following:

From the common man category:
John Duven, Scott Hemmen, Darren Cloud. We also give a very special nod to former whistle blower on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. Cindy Svatos came forward, with two other employees in the 2005 era of whistles. Cindy has played a part in bringing about this long awaited change of oversight, accountability and control to Glenwood Springs.

Lodging and the chamber are chosen simply by the numbers. We feel lodging is very well represented and we believe Carl has a great deal of experience he can bring to the board that has potential to make the transition in ease.

Tourism sector:
Ken Murphy and Trent Blizzard.   Glenwood Springs, for better or worse, is currently entrenched in viral marketing. All eggs pretty much in one basket. A double edged sword that has put us, when it's used effectively, into the world class destination resorts category.  Trent Blizzard helped create that viral juggernaut, we need him to help us keep what is good and eliminate what is not. Trent is also a good business man who cares deeply about all sectors of small business in our community. Ken Murphy, in our eyes, is the only tourism sector candidate strong enough to usher out an old era. Ken also has the potential to ring in a new one with calm, steady support and a wealth of experience. Ken is also a fair guy with a backbone. He has good potential to be the glue that meshes all sides into the best promotional team Glenwood Springs has ever seen.

smalltown7 give good wishes to our city council as they prepare to seat this historic board.

At this time, the latest announcement from safeplace is that Commissioner John Martin, Councilman Leo McKinney and Jeff Hecksel, City Manager were spoken to, via email, by smalltown on Sunday, the 29th of August.

In our email, we brought both city and county up to speed on where we are at with the Current Watch on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.  

Yes, we retained your anonymity as that is our word to you, but we did share your ongoing concerns.

We also lent clarity to what we support and what we will remain not supporting.

One of the areas we will remain supporting until we can see how strong the new board truly is, shall be the Current Watch on the chamber. smalltown7 stands on our position spoken here a few months ago that the time has come to cut off the past and move on to the future here in Glenwood Springs.
Never has that been more clear than seeing the release of the disappointing revenue numbers over the past year. Where the new board will look to promoting the future and gaining control over what is left from the past; our concern, along with many other citizens, is what appears on the surface to be missing.   There are some gaping holes that potentially add up to a lot of dollars that could be in tourism promotion for the future.   Bottom line is that until we know, we cannot as a community move fully forward.  We also must meet our obligation to you.  Our decision is to continue the same pace we have had over the past 3 months or so.  It seems to be working.

Yes, we were straight up in expressing what you have expressed to us.  We tried to cover as many appropriate bases as we could without running the risk of alienation. 

At this time, we say to the folks that you now have security in controls over the future and it may be a wise time for diplomacy within reason.

So far, our officials have not given any consideration whatsoever for laying the concerns of the people to rest.

Transparency is easy.

Such resistance is worrisome. Especially when that resistance spans decades and millions of dollars in public revenues.

Our email on Sunday reiterated what some already knew. We want nothing more than to be proven wrong.

We spoke again of our belief that now that control of funds and power is in place with the city ultimately in charge; ours is a quiet watch. At least as quiet as the high global exposure and credibility we have earned here at safeplace can make it.  We hope that very soon, we can go dark on the Current Watch on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

We spoke at length of our support  of both city and county and how pleased we are for the future aims.

We also spoke of our disappointment that such lengths, spanning such a long period of time, have been forced upon the folks yet still there is no forensic audit or accounting anywhere for them to lay their concerns down upon and move forward. We reminded that our community is in their hands and the need to even have a 'safeplace' is appalling to us.

Yes, we applied a little bit of your pressure. That application was done with the highest interests of all in mind.

You did good! Your new board has some fine applicants.

...just sayin...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Current Watch: City of Glenwood Springs, Ordinance #12, Series of 2010 authorizing a city governed Tourism Promotion Board

On the 15th of July, 2010 the Glenwood Springs City Council approved Ordinance #12, Series of 2010.  Placing control over the largest public revenue base the citizens of the 81601 and 81602 zip codes have; back into the hands of the people.

smalltown7, privately thanked City Council after this unanimous vote. 

We also expressed our thanks at the obvious upbeat feeling shown by council at this meeting.  The energy and tone of knowing that a historic impact was being made by their vote, was noted.  Unified with an underlying current of hope and excitement; council moved Glenwood Springs forward.

smalltown7 then made a conscious choice, to stand down and let a community torn apart and somewhat shell shocked after the past year; begin the healing process.  That was a good choice. 

Also a very wise one, as it turned out. 

True to form, just as soon as one or two others, with tentative voices,  began to speak up and encourage individuals to sit the new board; they were viciously attacked in public print media.  Accused of everything from being false to conspiracy.  And worse, they were not protected by this local publication.

smalltown7 defended those voices in public.  In private, we have given them a safe haven to voice should they ever choose to do so again.  is now another SafePlaceBlog, launched last weekend.

It is noted, by smalltown7,  that  behind the scenes,  the excitement and creative plans for the new board seem to be thriving.  When the application comes out on August 2nd in the Current Council Packet (can be found at , in the News In A Flash box and right under animated kayak guy); it goes in front of council for approval on the night of August 5th, 2010.  Schedule for appointments will be set that evening.  The application ready for immediate release to the public once approved.  We've been hearing a lot of names being dropped out there and are really pleased at the caliber of individual talent potential.

This is the people's board now.  Glenwood Springs can only thrive from this point forward.

It is also noted by smalltown7 that we have received seriously concerned mails and calls from citizens who would like to either publically support this board or sit this board,  and are beginning to again feel intimidated to do either.  We have passed our concern about this forward to council.

Our public statement about this unfortunate turn, is this:

Keep talking.  If you want to sit this board and feel you can bring something of worth to the table, then go get an application, fill it out and take it to council.  If you do not feel safe or experience any backlash from any source; take it to authorities, who are aware of the problem.

There's a lot of work to be done to pull us out of the hole we're in financially.  

smalltown7 notes that the City of Glenwood Springs has not posted sales tax revenues for either 1st or 2nd Quarter as of yet.  Tourism revenues remain down 30% from 2009 and are reported in now as down another 5.4% for a total of 35.4%.

Over one third of our accommodations tax needs to be recovered before we can even hope to begin to build again.

Budgets, immediate 2011 RFP to be crafted, issued and awarded, audit of resources owned, forensic audit of all monies to date.  Creative workshops for future goal setting.

And the list goes on.  This is an exciting opportunity for Glenwood Springs.

smalltown8 congratulates the City of Glenwood Springs and publically extends their thanks to City Council.

Many times now, we have tried to move on past the "Current Watch on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association".

Each time, the energy of what we have been up against has not let us do that.  With  the city's hands on the wheel and fully alert; we feel we can finally move on to other Current Watches and other endeavors.

We've decided to change this site to simply "Safe Place to Whistleblow" in order to accommodate the wide variety of topics and needs being sent to us.

Until this board is seated and there is a good flow of movement with no more backlash to individuals, we'll keep this site as it is, for now.

That good flow should be in place by this Fall.

smalltown7 looks forward.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Current Watch: GSCRA: Local Newspaper Censors Citizens. Blocks Voices Since Creation of New Tourism Board Ordinance.

The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s “Full Court Press” was exposed on Friday for an old but favored tactic.

One that is very familiar to locals. Especially former whistleblowers on the Chamber.

Censorship or blocking completely, of voices and the publically linking of articles, blogs and commentary elsewhere, that shares any information whatsoever that the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce does not see as favorable light on their organization.

Using the influence of long standing power and control, a dying era has resorted once again to manipulation and spin of the internet and media.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado is a fairly small town. Two grocery stores, one post office and only one parent newspaper that holds a monopoly on local town newspapers.

Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Aspen Times, Citizens Telegram, Summit Daily, Vail DailyGJ Free Press are all owned by Swift Communications, which serves a number of communities in California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. Corporate offices located in Carson City, Nevada.

We have only one independent and strong local newspaper that has been around for a long, long time that is not held by the monopoly of Swift Communications. The Aspen Daily Newsremains free from "corporate news media" and is owned by Dave Danforth.  Business offices located in Aspen, Colorado.

The differences between the two newspaper companies is easy to see.

Logistics level sees the Glenwood Post Independent filled with advertising in it’s print edition and SPAM filled pop ups in it’s online edition.

We also have “up valley” and “down valley” views of our newspapers. Over the years, politics in our corridor  has given strong class distinctions that distinguish between the two.  The Daily is read by “billionaires” and “workers” alike. The “ghetto elite/wannabe elite” surf between the two. A growing number of citizens making a rising and impressive surge into social and political scenes are none of the above and use the Daily as the grounding point and the Post for a quick skim to catch up on buzz.  The Post is the “down valley” for Swift. The Aspen Times is Swift’s “up valley” with both papers rarely in a war with each other over content as their content is the same. The Citizens Telegram, also owned by Swift, is the “real down” valley paper and is located in Rifle. Rebellious when it can to it’s parent and serves the seat of our big oil and gas industry.

For those not familiar with the demographics of our town, Glenwood Springs sits in the middle and is considered the gateway to three influential and powerful commodities: big oil and gas to the west, public owned Vail Ski Resort and private held Aspen Ski Company. From the Summit Daily to the Grand Junction Sentinel, our news is followed all over the world.

Politically, the Swift family is mostly blue but does once in awhile pander to the red, depending on which community it’s sitting in.

With the recession, folks cut back on the Post’s paid subscriptions and deliveries, instead picking it up free at newstands and walking the few blocks to do that. The Post and Times are larger in size and there are more pages.

Logistics level with the Aspen Daily, shows less advertising and the folks still pay for subscriptions. It’s also the favorite of the estimated hundreds of blue collar workers who come from “down valley” to “up valley” and most locals throughout. Also holding the earned claim of being the paper absent second and third home owners subscribe to by mail.

Politically, it’s hard to tell if the Aspen Daily News is blue or red.

On journalistic levels, locals know if they want to read the full story, they go to the Daily. To get the gossip or juicy spin, they go to the Post or the Times. The Daily is also a free paper as well and can be found not only at news stands but piles delivered to local businesses, such as professional offices where one has to wait to meet an appointment.

A “Good Morning” to another local hitting the newspaper stand at the same time, often holds a little eye contact and partial smile of knowing from each, as they nod politely and then reach for the symbols of what they support and believe in.

The shock waves running up and down “The Valley” each time whistleblowers come forward on the Chamber, has never been more palpable than the past 19 months, with an emphasis on the past 6 months.

Those courageous whistleblowers in the late ‘90's kept talking to locals throughout the years after being fired from the Chamber. Widely known now that the smalltown7 group are some of those locals.

More attention in all the local papers was visible in the 2005 era of whistleblowers on the Chamber. As a result, local workers and small businesses began connecting and watching for patterns.

In our era of whistleblowing, the no oversight and zero transparency on our public held funds that fuel the Tourism Marketing Contract has seen the Post’s completely over the top inflamed reporting and heavy standing bias,  in favor of the sole source vendor Chamber of Commerce.

A choice being starkly compared locally to zero coverage from The Aspen Daily News.

Openly admitting, at the July 1, 2010 City Council meeting, that she has an “unhappy....shocked...” Chamber Board of Directors pressuring her by “calling”; Marianne Virgili, President, CEO and Executive Director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, has now aimed her Full Court Press to retain the tourism marketing contract at the current sitting Tourism Board and few remaining, yet powerful, community supporters and Chamber board members .

Openly admitting, at the July 1, 2010 City Council meeting, that she had been on the phone and gathering support, one of the more poignant moments of the evening for local viewers was a local hotel owner obviously rounded up at the last minute, lay her hand comfortingly on the shoulder of a Chamber employee as she stepped down from the podium.

Locals watching the subsequent series of three articles, in the Glenwood Post Independent as they covered this historic Council session, recognized “canned” press information released by the Chamber. They began to speak. Once again raising voices in protest. smalltown’s recent postings, here at a safe place to whistleblow on non profits,  were shared in online format of the Post and unfolded alongside those voices raised in protest.

Content has ranged from the now 12 year old cry of a “conspiracy” against the Chamber (to) our release again of commentary ability on this blog (to) the now wounded bellows and outcrys  of one or two offshoots, of the lion’s share holders, benefitting strongly in the past from no oversight in place.

Publically pounding the keyboards, locals have hit the forums all over the region and safeplace has continued to post. The result is a valley wide spread of awareness that whistleblowers and whispered words, for over a decade, have been dead on accurate.

This choice of caving to the pressure of advertisers and social power is a familiar one to locals where local media is concerned.

One of the patterns, of this decades old issue, began to develop in 2005 out of the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce.  A now proven and verifiable online harassment and slander to whistleblowers, combined with a burst onto the web of glorification of the head of the Chamber.

A second pattern developed. Tom Jankovsky of Sunlight Ski Resort and Steve Beckley of Glenwood Caverns created the current Tourism Board. Then put that board under the power of the Chamber. A Chamber which has been the sole source award for tourism marketing for 22 years, with an estimated 14 to 18 million dollars flowing through it’s coffers during that time. The Chamber's immediate burst into Swift Communications media and onto the world wide web, in a quest to become a Destination Resort, filled the coffers of the City of Glenwood Springs Accommodations Tax. The strategy of that marketing campaign is blatantly obvious when one looks at the range of advertising and marketing coverage that it pays for. We did become a Destination Resort. The less than a handful of companies that benefit the most are called locally the “Lion’s” of our tourism sector. In the years since, small business that are offshoots supporting the infrastructure of the Tourism Lion's have resorted to developing their own marketing entities in order to attempt to keep pace and stay alive as they carry that weight. In the boom hit of this recession, no focus of change has come to our tourism marketing.  Our revenues in accommodations tax dropped 30% in 2009 and decreased another 5.4% to date in 2010.  Downtown small businesses closing rapidly, findings that our marketing vendor in the Chamber dipped the locals Tourism Grant Fund until it ran dry.  The pattern of continual climbing to the top while refusing to provide accountability and transparency to the citizens has grown stronger since 2005.

The sleeper in this story are the small voices of the whistleblowers. Behind the scenes, in the sub communities of our valley and region they kept talking and grew stronger.

Today, being so strong they have managed to give their voices of reason, fairness and balance a courageous physical presence.

One strong enough to bring the upcoming oversight to the largest and most influential public revenue base our region has in our Accommodations Tax.   Ordinance #12, Series of 2010, City of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

 smalltown7 takes the win.

Another big change here at safeplace is our being picked up by politcally powerful non profit watch dog feeds. is now approaching over 50,600 views.

smalltown7 keeps talking.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. SafePlace answers Local's Call

You are asking.

That asking is growing in fever pitch, now that word is out we are releasing comments again on this blog.

We have decided to give you what you want.

Straight talk, no holds barred, smalltown7's view on what’s left to deal with on the Current Watch on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. Just like our investigative period used to do, prior to your win of getting oversight on the Tourism Marketing Contract in place.

In process:
• Final approval of minor changes to language in your new City Ordinance #12, Series of 2010. City Council should have that on the agenda for final read and pass on July 15th, 2010. We are highly confident it will pass, all council members seemed to be in favor on 1st read. There did not appear to be any nays coming, with maybe the exception of Councilwoman Kaup and Councilman Sturges; who may be susceptible to pressure from the full court press. We hope there are no nays.

Accountability from the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, for the return of the funds depleted from city discretionary fund when the Tourism Grant Fund ran dry this Spring. The chamber openly admitted, at council on the 1st, that they sit on a cushion. The chamber openly revealed no replacement for Kate Collins has been done after her recent resignation. Kate’s salary for an entire year has already been paid to the chamber, with less than 5 months of that salary depleted. The chamber attempted to state they have the contract for 2011. In reality, they do not. One of the first pushes, by this now diverse board, is being watched to be one of the first ever RFP (Request For Proposals) being issued on the Tourism Marketing Contract. smalltown7's vote is Kate Collins and her new firm, Write Brain Left, Inc. to bid that RFP. By our calculations, the return of the balance of Kate’s salary for the year 2010, combined with the release back to the city of a cushion that was never to have been in place without City Council’s awareness; returns to the people what we shelled out for bail-out to the Grant Fund. There should be ample remaining, in addition to, that would fund all of the worthwhile grant requests that are currently doing without. We are hoping that our very vocal push to point these items out to council gets this item back on agenda quickly so the folks can benefit. Full accountability for that dip by the chamber this year, walks hand in hand with getting an RFP in place for 2011. RFP construction itself is more a function of the section below.

Issues we feel the new Tourism Board can and should cover:
• Secure our still down, accommodations tax base, by issuing an RFP for the 2011 award. Kate Collins could walk right into that and pick up stride quickly.That may be the fastest, wisest choice for 2011.   Kim Doose, Snap Smart Media is another huge favorite of our community. She could do same. No, smalltown7 does not support any bidding by the chamber to be allowed until all questions from the past are answered and transparency is in place. We do see the need for political stroking in having a member of the Chamber sit on the new Tourism Board. We strongly suggest that be a member of the Chamber Board of Directors rather than any Chamber employee.

• Inventory immediately what our resources are in Tourism Promotion.    For years, each time noise has been made to remove the chamber, the chamber and it’s board have countered with their statements and implications that they “own” all creations paid for by marketing funds, to date. For years, only the tourism elite, who were hand picked by the chamber to sit on the old Tourism Board, have seen the lion’s share of promotion. A very conservative guesstimate of 85% of all promotion done for decades has benefitted the Hot Springs Pool and it’s offshoot spas. Sunlight Ski Resort and it’s affiliations. Glenwood Canyon Resort and Glenwood Caverns and their offshoots. Hotels and restaurants coming in behind. This new and diverse oversight board holds more seats and demands diversity. Small business representation, private citizens, limited lodging and financial institutions.

 At this time, smalltown7 apologizes to our City Council for our comment in an earlier post. We stated that this new ordinance was a piece of milk toast and set up for making politicians in the current have an easier row, all the work to be done by the future. We also went on to call their work on this ordinance a “public disgrace”. We do not redact the milk toast. It is. But after watching, on July 1, 2010, only one of you come very close to caving to the Chamber’s Full Court Press; we do see your sincerity and your commitment to becoming stronger and more accountable. smalltown7 does not believe you are a public disgrace and respectfully apologizes.

Let’s find out what the city owns. Let’s find out what we have of substance in draws , events, gimics and promotions.

• Citizens who are small business owners, do know what a landing sheet is, Kate. What we want is a budget that is not short sighted and suiting an assumption that the ATM known as the Accommodations Tax will never shut down or run dry. Let’s get fresh blood, new ideas into a few work sessions so that hard looks at how the numbers add up to bang for the buck. The 2011 budget and landing need to be performing back to at least 2008 standards, no matter what “the economy” does. True resources like Glenwood Springs don’t slump this much when any outside influence kicks in.

• As our new board settles in, address the issue of Strawberry Days. Civic event or Chamber event? Get 2011 Strawberry Days dialed in to meet whatever our current City ordinances require for one of the biggest annual draws we have.

• Start looking at long term goals. The potential merit of awarding a performance based Tourism Promotion Contract, major and at least semi-permanent draws such as an expansion of the water park, para gliding infrastructure, major and sustainable with high revenue draws such as World Kayak and what we can put together to compliment Vail when they host the next Winter Olympics and smaller draws that could hold focused funding to Tourism Grant Fund so it can get off of accommodations tax revenues.

Issue we feel your new Tourism Oversight Board and our City Council should work hand in hand on. At this time, we also make the call for our County Commissioners to join in as the property the Chamber is housed in belongs to Garfield County:
• 22 years worth of forensic transparency on all public money flowing through the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

There you go, mostly local asking peeps. You asked, we delivered. It’s up to you to make this new board all you want it to be.

In response to the call out to hammerandnails to sit this board: (“I may be at a loss for words and humbled hearing all this. But actually would like to sit this board.   Especially if some of our nominees join me. Steve Swanson of Good Health Grocery. Stan Rachesky, old War Horse. rukdng, a common man with common sense and a fair hand. Jason Carey, and need I say more. Sharrill Hawkins, just a really good woman. Dave Heyl, a logical and savvy businessman with keen eyes who does not back down when needed. Yep, I would like that. But, after all this hard work to get our original question answered on “where’s the money?”, there’s been too much blood shed to get your new board in place only to have it get weakened by what is sure to come in manipulation and opposition now. None of us will be the ones to give that opposition a target mark.  "Conspiracy against the Chamber" days are over now.  Time to do better things with all our time.  We want you not just flying out there, we want Glenwood Springs soaring. I’ll keep my friends in low places until we get you there. Thanks, though. May need to get a bigger hat.”)

Comments remain moderated on this blog.  34 of 42 comments on our last post have been released.  6 of the 8 that are held back; contain positive content that assists our latest whistleblower's legal  needs.  The remaining two of the 8 have been cataloged as evidentiary.  We encourage your comments and rarely strike.  Please also remember we all have day jobs and this is volunteer work.  At the present time, it takes 9 of us devoting around 15  hours a week to all the posting on nationwide forums for  all the political offshoots  this blog has brought us, for all the research time it takes to keep track of the fast moving run of this Current Watch. We also have  a number of organizations that watches have been asked for and we still need to pull together some decisions on.  Thank you for your patience.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce. City Council Stands Firm and Moves Swiftly to Get Oversight Board in Place

...either uninformed or simply being misled.."

"...has been on table for a year..."

"...not appreciative of the fear mongering.."

"...we have a moral and ethical need to act.."

"...yes.  We are ready to move this forward tonight.."

And so they did.  The comments above are all from sitting council members.  Not from the visibly shaken current President and CEO of our Chamber of Commerce.

In a historic first time ever show of firm resolve, our City Council held firm last night and pushed into a long session to make minor changes in language to the new ordinance designed to protect the money flow of our Accommodations Tax revenues.

Very minor changes to language in the new Ordinance #12, Series of 2010 were decided upon and authority given by council to the city attorney to have rewrite in place for the next council meeting's approval.

smalltown7 remains wanting answers to all questions in our summary post below. 

We also feel completely confident that never again will the loopholes that have allowed for only in house oversight of themselves by the Chamber/Marketing Vendor be allowed to surface.  Future accountability is going to be in place.

This is a major win for the citizens of Glenwood Springs.

The fact that it was blatantly obvious the usual full court press was visibly shaken and highly uneffective in swaying council; did escape our local press coverage.

Again, smalltown7 takes the win.

The future of the largest revenue base Glenwood Springs has will now be in the hands of a diverse board. 

It is up to the citizens of Glenwood Springs to empower themselves now and make it a strong and autonomous from the marketing vendor, board.

Where will our Chamber of Commerce and it's Board of Directors end up as the now empowered city and citizens rise? a very good question, indeed.

After the display we watched last night, our guess here at smalltown8 is a continued attempt at more full court pressing to keep the Chamber's stranglehold on the revenues in place.

With a Chamber President and CEO under investigation, a very poor showing of gimics and flashy power point presentations on the quarterly marketing report that was completely lacking in actual numbers and returns for our money,  and a visibly missing show of physical supporters of old in the room; our guess is the new Tourism Board will be looking hard for answers and asking some very tough questions.

Thank you, sitting council of 2010.  You have a clear path ahead of you now and have done as asked.  Awakened and taken charge.

It will be very, very interesting to watch the next two weeks unfold for our council and our citizens as the end of an era dissolves.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce. City Council Brings Forward Ordinance Changes to Protect Tourism Fund

(Below this post today is a summary of the long standing whistleblower issues surrounding our Chamber of Commerce. The primary issue being the surrounding of the Tourism Marketing Contract and alleged misappropriation of public funds. )

On July 1st, 2010, our City Council meeting begins the process of covering proposed changes to the relationship between the public Accommodations Tax, the current Tourism Board and the tourism marketing contractor in our Chamber of Commerce.

Smalltown7 has reviewed the current council packet and the proposed changes to the existing Ordinance.

We state again that we will take the win.

We state again that it is not enough.

Especially now that the wording of proposed change is reviewed.

This proposal is a watered down, designed to make politicians happy piece of milk toast.

Change will come for sure and it is good change. It’s also change that has no accountability except for 'future' board, council and city administration. There are no answers to any of the list of issues below.

Issues brought time and time again before City Council.

Will there ever come a day when the general public gets their answer to the very simple questions of ‘Where is the estimated 14 to 18 million dollars flowing through suspect Chamber coffers? All of it and not just surface scanning of receipts and expenditures? Is there anyone at all in charge of these funds who is willing to show transparency and accountability to the people?’

Smalltown7 feel that in the future there will be. Thanks to this hard fought, but still way too small win.

We remain thanking City Council for the effort made so far. 

We remain challenging you to do better.

What say you, all followers of this blog watch?

When you look through the decades worth of issues below this post; is this effort by council enough for you?

How are you feeling about the public disgrace surrounding Glenwood Springs right now?

• Currently, our President and CEO, Marianne Virgili remains under investigation, as does our Chamber. Currently, our Chamber of Commerce Board and our City Council are public disgraces for their continued apathy and blind eyes that ultimately authorize breaches of ethics directly traceable back to this organization.  Breaches so extreme they are shocking. Breaches of ethics that are traceable back at least 13 years now.

• Currently, we have major political races in our county. County races that ironically have ties directly back to the Chamber. Alleged illegal acts performed within a county owned building that the Chamber sits in and our public funded by Tourism Visitor’s Center operate through. Not one commissioner doing anything about any of the allegations. We currently have one of the founders of the Tourism Board concept, Tom Jankovsky, trying desperately to distance himself from the Chamber as he runs for County Commissioner against incumbent Democrat Tresi Houpt. Should we elect a powerful commissioner’s seat to someone who not only has been blind for a decade but who also apparently has the type of ethics that condone and allow this mess to effect all of us in such adverse ways?

Smalltown7 does not believe so and announced this week our support of Ms. Houpt, the Democratic incumbent.

Should the public allow an obvious biased local media to continue to attempt to brainwash by using artful spin tactics and wordsmithed press releases handed to them by our marketing vendor?

Smalltown says absolutely not. Continuing local commentary and their work here.  Pointing out the seemingly small discrepancies that later turn into things that can blind a public for years and cause all to have to wade through and sort out to get to the full truth.

• Currently, we have a growing population following this watch,  that is so fed up and filled with both disgust and horror at the extreme abuses of power present in our town; that one of our members coined the phrase: “..a puss filled, malignant tentacle..” in describing for a local forum how deep these issues of years infiltrate.

We all are watching impending change from the empowerment of smaller voices gathered together. The sub community of this town that holds up higher standards for our officials, civil liberties free from encroachment, common sense with practical applications and a zero tolerance policy for the unjust, unfit and obviously lacking individuals and policies that presently shape portions of our community.

Yes, smalltown7 takes the win coming at all of us this Thursday night.


It is not nearly enough.

Live feeds of City Council meetings can be found on meeting night on the City of Glenwood Springs website.   

You do not have to be present in order to speak up.

Let go of feeling pushed or bullied to do so. 

There is no mandatory requirement to be publically displayed in order to speak your mind. 

With the track record of protection that our city officials have towards anyone speaking up; there are few in their right mind who would speak publically.

Send an email to any councilman. Watch for openings in local media to voice your opinion.

Keep talking.

If you are one of the quiet ones listening, listen to all and do so actively not passively. Brainwashed and spun for decades ends in present day. Remember threads, remember all the facts. Eventually, speak up and be heard.

Here is the summary of complaints against the sole source marketing vendor; the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce: 

All of these issues tie into the public accomodations tax because of the long standing sole source governship by the chamber.  Since we have a Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors acting on bruised egos now instead of complete and total  fiscal responsibility to all citizens in the 81601 zip code; the list below is sorted into two sections.  The first being what the people can push hard and forward on with likely a good result now.  Power is in your corner.  The second part of the list will either be forced to scandal resolution or die a natural death with no accountability or restitution for citizens when the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association finishes it's current spiral downward.

It is worthy to note:

“The claims from all actual whistleblowers who have spoken up since the late 1990's to
current day are all the same. It’s important to note that none of these people collaborated
or even knew each other at the time they came forward with their claims."

Part one of summary.  Directly related to public funds:
• There are false line items within the 1/4 allotment for expenses contracted to the Chamber ea. year in the marketing contract. Items such as $20,000 to $25,000 for building rent when the building is rent free from Garfield County. Travel related expenses that don’t exist. Equipment that either was not purchased for Chamber use or was logged as a new purchase when old equipmentwas actually still in use. The claim of the expenses never being forensic scrutinized has held up over the years. No audit or transparency has been made public. As recently as February 2010, close to one year after the last complaintant came forward  City Council notes (minutes of 2/6/10) the heated debates over this issue.

• Credit card use as allegedly fraudulent. Trips for travel with employees that showed a few
dozen credit cards being shuffled to pay for lavish hotels, meals, travel and gifts.  Much of the use being done under the disguise of being tourism related work trips. Until the last whistleblow, it was not known how many cards were out there. It was only known that all the incentives,
rewards, air miles earned from card use were never used by anyone other than
the Chamber President and CEO. That the cards high balances, averaging around $8,000 per month, were always paid off in full every month. It was also brought forward that often new cards were brought in and balances shuffled instead of paid off.

• Vehicle expense logs as false. 5000 miles per month and upwards logged as actual
miles driven and then billed out as expense. Far less reported in actual drive miles
based on the schedule of how often driver was out of building.  Again, supposedly tourism related. Issue becomes a question of double dipping, possibly triple dipping.  Tourism related expenses are supposedly a part of expense reimbursement in the Tourism Marketing Contract. 

• False mailing lists created based on direct and reported as power abusive
instructions to employees to create them no matter how or where names and
addresses were obtained. The items passed through billing meters and the City was
charged.  Old complaint, but still valid because it was never resolved except to slap wrists at the chamber. 

• Hand picked within the Chamber the oversight board in the Chamber Board of Directors.
At the inception of the Tourism Board, they too were hand picked and selected as
sitting members. Council Minutes of 06/03/10 reveal that has now been changed
and ordinance is being drawn up (first reading July 1, 2010 council meeting) to eliminate all but the City of Glenwood Springs control over the Tourism Fund. The Chamber Board of Directors to remain as the governing power of the non-profit Chamber Resort Association.  ***Headed to resolution.

• Misuse, for intentional purpose to harm political campaigns and whistleblowers, the use of Chamber of Commerce infrastructure in the powerful database and search optimizing ability of the computers purchased through the Tourism Fund Marketing contract.

• Complaints of no RFP issuance, ever, on this large of a public contract.  ***Should resolve in the future with the new Tourism Board structure in place.

• Complaints of a non profit organization acting instead as a for profit marketing
company. The reasoning behind the for profit appearance was because the
argument from the chamber, every year, to others having a chance at the award was
that the chamber “owned” all that it had created within the Tourism Marketing
Contract. Website, reservations control, etc. etc. At the high dollar monies being
discussed, it would show a very high profit margin for this 501c6 non-profit organization.

Part two of summary:
• Complaints from the membership/small business sector that the Chamber of
Commerce was supposed to serve took/takes a backseat to their work as a
marketing company for the tourist industry. Numerous and costly to the public
entities over the years have had to be created to compensate. Downtown
Development, Downtown Partners, etc.

Legitimacy in awards to the Chamber and head personnel. Complaints that most of
the awards and accolades to it’s sitting President and CEO were self applied for

rather than earned.

• Complaint of misuse of employee rights in hiring and firing. The change the
Chamber implemented after the 2005 situation was to start hiring 1099 contractors
instead. The current complaint is that these contractors actually are housed for
their work duties within Chamber walls.

• Complaint of being harassed via internet and email to her new employer in another
state, by one of the 2005 era of complaintants.

• President and CEO, Marianne Virgili named as a primary suspect in felony complaints filed to authorities by a private citizen that span in date range from December 2008 through to current day.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs City Council puts start of initiative forward to completely change oversight of Tourism Board and Chamber


Tremendous progress, albeit at the snail's pace our City Council is noted for, is in process as a result of the June 3rd, 2010 Glenwood Springs City Council meeting.

While the local newspaper is obviously being given limited information or is purposely not reporting all that is going on in the background regarding the Tourism Marketing Contract and oversight of the Chamber; smalltown7 is greatly encouraged by this progress.

We are also calling for fast movement in drafting the ordinance that changes oversight.

We are also calling for fast movement in putting together an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the 2011 awards.  Kate Collins, former VP at the Chamber of Commerce resigned on May 5th, 2010.   Kate's new firm, Write Brain Left, Inc. is one we are hoping makes a grab for the work.  Also Kim Doose and her local company, Snap Storm Media.  Both would be excellent candidates.

We remain calling for an immediate pull of the 2010 contract from the Chamber as mounting scandal is moving faster than our City Council.  It is a question of protecting what little remaining legitimacy and dignity this community has where the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is concerned.

As smalltown7 conferenced last night to make final plans on how to move off the Current Watch on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association now that both goals have been met.

 The goal of protecting public money is in process now after June 3rd. 

The goal of law enforcement awareness of tremendous deception within the Chamber has been and remains being met.

So, what to do from here?

One of the ideas is to start a new section to this SafePlace blog.  "Ongoing Status Watch".  All updates can then be shortened and dropped right in there.  Yes, we are now moving on to finish up what we have on the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce.  Watch here for that Current Watch to move forward.

Thank you, City Council.  Now, get moving to clear us and put as much distance between the citizens and the Chamber as possible as the 9th Judicial District and City of Glenwood Springs begins to clean up the "multiple layers of deception" associated.

Congratulations again, Glenwood Springs.  This is a very, very big win for our community.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce: City Council Meeting Set to Decide Fate of Tourism Board

Today's post to SafePlace is authored by (2) former employees of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. 

This post is dedicated to the group now widely known as smalltown8.

"Over 12 years ago now, we were the first employees of the Chamber to start the rise upward to expose a corruption that at the time was just becoming obvious.

A little over 12 years later.  Coming along behind (3) additional episodes of more whistleblowers coming forward; the many who have had the courage to stand up have finally accomplished the goal of public exposure to protect the tourism tax revenues of our community.

The efforts span 12 years of rising public view. 

They span at least 8 to 10 years of public concern in quieter ways prior to public view.

 In summary, close to 20 years of concern over the lack of true and fiscally responsible oversight of one of the largest revenue bases in our community. A fund that has generated an estimated 18 to 20 million dollars of revenues into our city coffers.

On the 3rd of June, 2010, City Council sits down, with the eyes of a community and now unfortunately a minimum of additional 48,000 eyes and numerous  world news feeds, to determine the fate of the tourism fund.

For the first time in the history of the Tourism Fund, there is no ability to make decisions on these funds without answering to the public while doing so.

Council, on the surface has supplied rhetoric that they will final determine what type of accounting oversight there will be on these funds. 

Council, on the surface has supplied rhetoric that there are many issues and concerns over the relationship with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and Tourism Board.  Those issues to be thoroughly analyzed and the fate of the relationship and it's oversight is to be determined.

Council, on the surface has supplied rhetoric that the long standing non compliance City Council has indulged itself in by not putting the Tourism Marketing Contract out for RFP (Request for Proposals) each year is to be thoroughly analyzed and ear marked with a mind for acceptance to non compliance of standards (or) placed into compliance with all other contracts of this magnitude.

What Council has not yet done is provide a commitment to the public on transparency of all funds issued to the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association to date.

This upcoming commitment from our City Council is a major win for the community of Glenwood Springs.   

Finally seperated from a single organization, the marketing portion of the Tourism Tax revenues now stands a chance to be tightly held and all of it's strength focused on the good of a community.

It is by no means all that needs to be done.

It is our hope, as (2) of the small voices who have managed to bring this win, that the rest of what needs to be done will see fruition as well.

Long standing change is at now at hand at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.  Still yet another high employee, in Kate Collins VP of Tourism Marketing at the Chamber, resigned on May 5th, 2010.    Marking another of so many of us who have fallen by the wayside.  Kate's path did not follow whistleblowing.  For that, we are glad for her.  This is not a road to be wished on anyone.

A recent public cry rose up for the City Council meeting of June 3, 2010 to also hold discussion of securing the current contract now with the Chamber Resort Association.

There is no doubt in our community that scandal rocks, with more to come that pulls the Chamber of Commerce into public view.

For us, the avatars known as formerchamberlady and Former Chamber Employee, we join that cry to protect what may be remaining within the contract for 2010.  Gone are the excuses always cried out from the Chamber that there would be no one to run it.

There is now.

The creator of our Tourism Marketing, known as the Marketing Guru, Kate Collins and her new firm Write Brain Left, Inc. should now be available to safehold the Tourism contract for 2010.  It's a great fit as City Council makes plans to change.

You'll notice a change to the look of SafePlace today.

There are a couple of reasons for that.

The first, is that the clean up of a vile, malignant infection that has followed so many who go up against the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, is in process.  A clean up that began with us, (2) employees over 12 years ago.  That clean up remains supported fully by smalltown7 at a SafePlace.

The second is that we have decided as a group, to take the major win of public eyes forever now on the Tourism Tax revenues and their handling.  And to let the Glenwood Springs Chamber move on.  We feel strongly that we have managed to protect an asset of Glenwood Springs and the public can now join in our watch dog on City Council and City Management's stewardship of that asset until the time comes it is proven to be in good hands.

Here are the visual changes to the blog that you now see:

First, we are leaving only a few selected posts, specific to relevant events within clean-up of lives damaged. 

One is the post of Marilyn LaMont, aka bigtown1, in her "Free Speech and the Unalienable Right to Protection by Authorities" post.  Marilyn is one of two owners of a local business that has now seen the 'best' of our community.  We remain welcoming Marilyn and Keith to the business community of Glenwood Springs and are also very glad to hear of the recent upsurge in day to day sales as the community we love and know reaches out to them, hoping that they stay with us.

The second post archive available to you is the post speaking to you of the real County of Garfield and City of Glenwood Springs and the love we all have of our community.

Good wishes to the Glenwood Springs City Council as they sit down on June 3rd, 2010."