Saturday, June 11, 2011

Current Watch: City of Glenwood Springs oversight of tourism promotion within 81601"

This post is brought to you as a group compilation from 'smalltown7' and posted by 'gws44'.

As a group we make the public statement that we had hoped the passing of a little time would see the end of the few remaining issues surrounding current and past use of public funds by GSCRA.

Not only does that seem to not be happening, public awareness now holds serious concerns over conflicts of interest that effect fair process in the tourism RFP, still no control over the funds surrounding Strawberry Days and no answers to the citizens on the legal concerns surrounding public monies.

The highly effective medium of this blog seems to be the answer once again in getting voices heard.  Now that confirmation holds the innocent in this scandal are safely tucked aside, we can return to the cause we began in 2003.

Which is the full securing of past, present and future aaccommodations tax revenues within 81601.

This post is a summary of where we are in that battle:

"The standard response from elected officials and city administration anytime the subject of any question raised about the current and past handling of public funds or public events by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Assoc. is that they believe the chamber does an excellent job and has their full support.

To say that answer is an evasion of the question(s) is unnecessary.

Anyone can see that it is not only an evasion, it's a deliberate spread of disinformation by omission.

Anytime a question of concern by taxpaying citizens is not only avoided but deliberately steered in another direction, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that something is being kept hidden.

If the problems and concerns were fresh, new and few then maybe some understanding of officials possibly wanting to not tarnish their city could be found.

But in the case of 81601 the diversion and aversion has run rampant and unchecked for literally decades.

Where exactly do the citizens of Glenwood Springs stand now?

Let's take a look:

  • A quick review of this blog shows that not without a great deal of passive aggressive manipulation by the Chamber and its Board of Directors, 81601 now has a strong Tourism Board in place that is under the control of the city.  Also in place is a first ever competitive bid process for the tourism promotion contract, starting with the 2012 award.  What is very important to note are the subtle manipulations in the background and throughout 81601 to try to undermine this good work.  The people see it, they know it, but yet the behavior remains tolerated by our sitting officials.  There is some hope that our new council members will finally get their legs under them and begin to objectively look at what is ultimately best for 81601 when it comes to tourism, events and city functions that draw revenue into our community and meld all factions into a working unit rather than under the umbrella of a unilateral determination of direction.

Let's take a look at the loose ends surrounding those two big changes.  All of which are not minor, but rather are major thorns in progressive movement for 81601:

*  The allowing of a bidding vendor, in the Chamber Resort Assoc. to hold a monopoly of seats on the new Tourism Board.  The people still state that this is not a popularity contest nor is the rationale that just about everyone on the Tourism Board is a chamber member.  This conflict is directed at any sitting Tourism Board member that is also a sitting director on the chamber board.  There are at least three in Peter Tijm, Ken Murphy and Carl Moak.  The solution is simple.  All should have abstained from any input whatsoever on the RFP, any input whatsoever on selecting who can and cannot bid and certainly abstain from any voting.  We can see in our own city council that even the slightest hint of conflict of interest and councilmen abstain.  Actually leaving the chambers during discussion. 

While on the topic of conflicts and special privilege granted to certain members, the question of whether or not Ken Murphy's application to re-up his seat was done in a legitimate manner or should Jon Zalinski actually be sitting that seat needs to be answered by council.

The  tourism board, because it is a public funds accountable board, should have minutes and taped meetings available for public view instead of kept under lock and key with the city clerk.  

The point to these questions is that our board needs to be held to legitimate standards, not selective and preferred by some standards.

What is our call on these points? 

Publicly announce what has been done to date on the issue of conflicts and if the answer is nothing, then GSCRA should disqualify.  

If the answer is only abstain from voting, then the public should be informed of all the reasons why the Tourism Board is being granted any special privileges above any other city board and requirements of charter and law.

This board is the only board that handles public funds and they should be held to the highest of standards as they are in a position of trust.  Be accountable and transparent in public ways.

Moving forward with the remaining issues we see:
  • The current tourism marketing contract for 2011 was given blindly to the chamber in early 2010.  No one really has a problem with that, it's best we have someone familiar to keep things going while transitions are being made.  Where the problem lies is still in the stone wall to show transparency to the money. Since the time of giving them 2011, publicly recorded minutes and videos of meetings show the see-saw effect of the chamber's attempt to push council and the citizens back to 'the way things used to be'.  These public records then show a grudging acceptance. 
The three issues still unanswered, but still on public record as questions and concerns are: 

a)  Where is the accounting for at least the 2010 bailout of the grant fund? Why haven't the detailed records of exactly where the 2010 20% to the chamber went been seen by the public?

b) Why  hasn't the accounting for the tourism contract cushion, spoken of by Lindsay Lewis as being sat on by the chamber and the obvious accounting for the salary of Kate Collins that was not spent after she quit yet was funded by the contract; been accounted for publicly?  The chamber is boasting of sitting on a positive bottom line at the end of 2010 fiscal year.  How much of that is public money?

c)  Mayor Christensen showed a rare moment of both anger and disdain when confronting Virgili over the signing of the 2011 contract.  On public record, the city returned to the contract the more rigid requirements and accounting mandates for the 2011 contract that had previously been imposed, then removed to soothe ruffled feelings by the tourism board.  Those accounting mandates held to a placing of the bookkeeping into the hands of private and tourism board/city controlled hands as of April 1, 2011.  Where is that accounting?  Does it finally include forensic accounting of past year's records?

What is our call on these issues?

a and b) Forensic accounting of legal strength and standards needs to be done on all public funds passed through GSCRA to date.  If the dogma defense that it is more important to maintain the popularity contest stature of our council and chamber still prevails, then fall back on city charter and law that mandates good stewardship, not guessing games, of public funds.

If any type of forensic look of any type of legal strength and standard is being done already, then control the press release that divulges that information and let the people know.  The people of 81601 are struggling mightily and working hard to prosper, they need to know exactly where the money is, where it has been spent and how it has been accounted for.

c)  The public focus on Virgili has been proven, time after time, to have nothing to do with one individual.  Yet, our esteemed council, our city administration and our law enforcement have now put many levels of 81601 in legal jeopardy from failure of their duty.

The citizens who ultimately have to pay for that loss and not just in monetary ways, deserve to have their minds put at ease that the time of blindly stumbling about making governing judgments from the foundation of gossip are over.  To alter a legal contract, given by us as a people in good faith and then attempt to shove that contract into signature was an outrageous showing of contempt for our community.  As shown in our last municipal election, the people no longer tolerate the abuse of power from anyone, including our elected officials.

Our call?  Announce publicly that the city has proven smalltown7 wrong on every point.  If that cannot be done, then begin the painful process of telling the full truth publicly.

  • Strawberry Days.  81601 needs every dime of tourism related revenue we can get.  Before our esteemed council even tries to run a new attractions tax by us, they need to get control over all the loose ends in tourist related revenue we have.  Our biggest event of the year is Strawberry Days.  And it used to be a fund-raising civic event.  We just blew another $9,000 in bailout money for fireworks, on top of the tens of thousands we bailed out the grant fund in 2010 when the chamber ran that dry.  Strawberry Days should not be a Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Assoc. fund-raising event, it should be returned to the City of Glenwood Springs control.
Our call on this one?

The city either needs to show the public, through council, the contract for the turning over of Strawberry Days to private controls or take it to the people on whether or not the event should be returned to city controls.  Including the money generated, which would be a great source to fund our discretionary grant spending.  If it should turn out that the event and all monies it has generated over the years is just another one of those 'whoops' of being asleep at the wheel by our elected officials, then the chamber needs to provide an accounting.

  • Sunshine.  Since when does our community sit back and allow a few in positions of power make the kind of governing decision that the public should be kept in the dark?  Obviously, since our own council members have remained oblivious to what the common man on the street has known for months; we have a very real concern that our leaders are possibly deliberately keeping themselves blinded.
Our call?

Get it all out in the open and make certain there is no twist or spin on the content.  Otherwise, the citizens of 81601 are not going to trust where they are being led.

smalltown7 keeps talking.


Send a kid to state championships instead of supporting unethical politicians in 81601 said...

Even the hint of misconduct or fail duty in not just a nonprofit but in a city's administration or a judicial district should bring immediate halts to any dealings with the suspected party(s) until the problem is completely cleared up. Even then, the most important concern should be the trust of the public if the problem has anything to do with public funds. For god's sake, people! This is not something a single person or a group created or kept active. These problems with the chamber and the city have been around for many, many years. Just answer the questions of accounting for every dime of public money and individual small business money held in trust through chamber memberships. If those questions are not answered to the public at large so that people can decide for themselves without either side of the problem yakking at them every time the beast rears it's head then we need new leaders. Impeach them if elected. Fire them if hired. The fact that we obviously don't even have cops or a D.A. that give a darn about this entire situation, including their own lack of eithics in conduct, then they're able to be impeached or fired also. I don't care if out of the tens of millions of dollars the lodging tax has brought in over the years even just shows that credit worthiness has been used for personal gain. That is a crime if it was not all authorized and I don't mean authorized after the fact because it's an ugly, ugly scandal to not cover it up. That money is badly needed by our groups, organizations, our way of life, our hungry and our homeless programs. This is and always has been a no-brainer. Stand up, quit tippy toeing around the poo on the floor and now the walls and get your jobs done and our house in order.

Anonymous said...

This thing, all of it is such a joke. If it was any other organization but the chamber it would have been out in the open years ago. All the propaganda in the universe is not going to change the numbers. When the tourism marketing was at its peak it was only a few who benefitted, all the small businesses still struggled. All the off-shoot organizations like Lowenthals are proof and downtown development are proof positive that if there is going to be prosperity for the small business sector they have to do it themselves. No other town in the area is stuck with a stale brand that serves only one lifestyle. We have no diversity, we have no year-round mo-jo. The chamber as a marketing vendor sucked, truly sucked. Took 1/4 of a million dollars a year in administrative costs right off the top of the contract. Why? To fund a visitors center that is supposed to be a function of the chamber of commerce, not tourism promotion. No chamber in the nation gets reimbursed for doing what they are supposed to be doing anyway. Emory was always right--this thing is a joke. There's never been a forensic audit except now maybe the one everybody has been talking about for almost a year being supposedly done by the worlds biggest keystone cops situation. We're a laughing stock with big promoters looking at us now and shaking their heads that the chamber is even allowed to bid again before getting their act cleaned up. Great idea. Prove these guys wrong on every point before you shove the chamber in front of us again. Another great idea in making every single thing about the tourism board as public eye as the city and county mtgs. are. They deal with our money. Yes, our money. We are Glenwood Springs and those hotels and lodging industry we support with all of our small businesses. If this new council we have in doesn't clean it up, impeach them all. Impeach Beeson. Fire Wilson. Fire Hecksel and Shutte. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

The answer always has been to public announce all findings from a full outside audit of all the years the chamber has had the contract. The answer if a full outside audit of all the years isn't done is to decide once and for all whether that is either acceptable or even lawful. If the chamber passes a full strength testing, then they should compete for future contracts. If they don't, then deal with the reasons why. But to have them in the process of bidding when they can't even keep the influence of the chamber off the new board and there is even a hint of scandal is just plain wrong. We are down by more than half of what any other resort town is. We need positive and upbeat marketing not stale and largely unpopular repeated programs. But what bothers our house more than anything else is this business of public records, internet and just common knowledge on the street show coming from Marianne Virgili. Our city council and our city administrators right down to our law enforcement authorizing and encouraging her to do what she has done. Her personality is pretty well-known and there's really no surprise, but Glenwood Springs is not the kind of community that participates in what has gone on. At least most of us aren't. The ones that have are in the media and spotlight. And now the city is letting someone like Virgili be in charge of any portion of marketing us for tourists? The whole chamber board should be set aside for all of it too. I'm not willing to watch over $500,000 get handed over yet again to those kind of people. Sorry, but it's just not right.

WingMan said...

Post that letter Gamba says Virgili was going to write on the conflict of interest. Anybody ever see that? Tell Mayor Steckler he's dead wrong that a director is no different than a chamber member. People have been shouting since the inception of the new board that there should only be one chamber seat. Not 4 out of 9. Plus 2 since Lewis and Virgili are there for every mtg.

If a board handles public funds their meetings should be fully public. No exceptions.

There is no way the chamber should be in the middle of this current RFP or any RFP until they are cleared. B.S. that the general public doesn't know the details, the only reason for that is a cover-up blanket over it all by Beeson and the city. Go check public records and decide for yourself if you want an organization that has a board that doesn't just let an employee do what Virgili has done but joins right into the blood lust. It's sickening and heartbreaking what those consequences are. These are people you want in charge of talking up 81601?

No more dancing, just pull out the contract that shows the city completely turned over every part of Strawberry Days, including the keeping of all the money for 20+ years. No contract? Then put some cops sprinkled around the big event, watch them to make sure they finally do their job where the chamber's concerned and have them collect every dime for safekeeping until council straightens out the problem. There's no place, like home.

karainlongmont said...

I left Glenwood for the front range over 5 years ago. Have family still there and a lot of friends, some of who are associated with smalltown. I'm proud of that. The reputation they have built up that's even talked about over here on the front range is a good one.

The city? That's a laughing topic. There isn't a municipal government anywhere that would tolerate this garbage put out by the chamber board about not being completely transparent. There isn't a justice district anywhere that wouldn't make sure that the public was put at ease and the trust held in a nonprofit accountable. People outside of Glenwood really do think the whole mess is screwed up.

And there probably lies the reason they stay away.

hammerandnails said...

Just say NO.

NO more coverups, NO more dancing the tango around the issues.

NO more fail to disclose to the folks.

Answer every question, they've all been asked in every way that there is. To the faces of council, to the council in letters and email, to the council in gossip and to the council in online forums. Finally in the only thing that gets our council's attention and that is global exposure on this blog.

The point to our council is this:

We are not here to be your clerk or your press secretary. We are the folks who keep you in office and in whom you serve. Your job is to provide transparency in everything you do. Make decisions based on all the facts and what is good for the whole, not the selectively reasoned few.

Your job is to act within the boundaries of our laws, our charter and our city's standards.

Open to video and live feed any meeting of any board that has to do with public funds. And that should include the city liaison to the chamber board meetings as long as they deal with public funds. They want to be our vendor? Then it's sunshine, baby. All sunshine.

The people out here are sick and tired of the selective reasoning that allows a private entity, and a non-profit to boot, the right to dictate what part of our charter and our laws they want to adhere to.

Opening the tourism board mtgs. is a duh! kind of decision. They govern public money with their decisions and are the only board that does. Open it up. NO more lock and key with the city clerk and the only ability to peruse the doc's is under that watching eye.

Strawberry Days is a civic aka city event.

Whip out the documents that show the city's good stewardship of our event, show the accounting for all the cash for decades and we'll be happy campers if all is in order.

If it's not, then call the cops.

But first make sure you have unleashed those cops of ours from the selective reasoning hold our council has them under. Maybe Sturges will want to handle that one. Make up for lost time.

Until our council gets off the dime and accounts to the public for every dime of the lodging tax for 24 years, get the sole source vendor in the chamber off the RFP list.

Who in their right mind would put a vendor who has been privy to every discussion there is on that RFP and leading up to that RFP in the position of bidding anyway? For that matter, since when and who in their right mind lets vendors for public RFP's be part of the decision making process in any way? Isn't that one heckuva conflict right there? Get real. Talk to the construction set out here that bids city RFP's and see if they get inside seats to anything. Was Hill Aevium given same?

For that matter, does Hill Aevium know what they're getting into? Have they surfed the web, local newspaper articles and chats, public records to see VirgZilla's handiwork and influence on the entire town?

Get off the dime, council.


Do you want your sworn undying support for your beloved sole vendor and politically powerful business people to stand or are you sincerely looking for a tourism marketing vendor that is best for Glenwood Springs?

Live with the choices you make and make for us.

Great idea. Just prove us wrong and it all goes away. You can slap those rose colored Oakleys back on, recline on the dais and all you survey.

chirkers said...

Doesn't matter what spin is put on it there's still only one problem. Every authority for a lot of years makes judgement calls that effect people's lives based on assumptions they've made from one woman's manipulating. That shows either corruption, stupidity or desire for social and political gain, at the expense of public money and people's lives. Really is that simple. Really is that out of control.

Anonymous said...

Private citizens who are good people, people of law, values and morals, people who are intelligent enough to do all the homework of checking all backgrounds of accusers before forming an opinion, people who then took that information of what they found and cared enough to get to know a woman who is reclusive in nature and not socially well-known, people who are fair, balanced and realize the potential for irretrievable consequences, people who are confident enough in their power as a voter and citizen; used all these resources, then interim judged our city administrator Jeff Hecksel, our past and present city council, our city attorney Jan Schute and our chamber resort assoc. and found them deeply lacking in professional and personal integrity.

These people of which I am one, are the majority of our community.

And now after this latest twist in this train wreck caused by something much worse than potential corruption, we weigh our law enforcement agencies and prosecutor and feel the utmost despair that rather than duty to investigate, duty to follow all law and not just selected portions, duty to not allow political or social aspiration to color the water, and find them sorely lacking in performance of duty.

The RFP goes up for vote soon. Strawberry Days is upon us. A new council that made bold promises to stand with backbone and instigate change, sits on the dais of Glenwood's chambers.

Ask yourself what is left out here for the community.

The answer is exactly the same thing we have had for well on to at least 15 years now by my count.

We have the question of a great deal of public money floating around no better than if it was tossed about in a gambling casino.

We have a strain of ego and arrogance overshadowing our good values. Let go for so many years that it has enmassed a power so strong it has now steered the course of our leaders and enforcers of law allowing tarring, feathering, baiting and vigilante witch burning to run so rampant through our community human life has been lost.

Above all this, we all now sit virtually idle waiting for someone else to make the move, have the guts to stand up and condemn the atrocity of Jeff Hecksel, Jan Schute, Mayor Matt Steckler, Mayor Pro-Tem Leo McKinney, Councilman Dave Sturges, Councilman Steve Bershyni, Councilman Ted Edmonds, Councilman Mike Gamba, Councilman Todd Leahy, Police Chief Terry Wilson, District Attorney Martin Beeson, Commissioner John Martin, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, Commissioner Mike Samson; not only allowing the gambling of our funds in the face of alleged corruption but the destruction of all we are within the soul of our community.

Never have I been more ashamed of my community than I am in this moment.

All deserve to be impeached, fired, charged in disregard of their duty.

You are all a disgrace.

I've never written in to this blog before.

I am proud to do so today. Thank you to all eight of the individuals who not only have the courage to do this but who also have enough love for their fellow citizens to do it.

guyinathinsuit said...

A position of trust is a legally held position. There are legal consequences for any individual who violates that trust.

When the power of the position becomes greater, such as sitting a board of directors on a non-profit entity, sitting a position within an electoral municipality, elected by the people to uphold all duty on which one is sworn; the responsibility becomes greater. In short, one never knows who they touch and they touch everyone.

There is no hidden and secret formula to upholding one's sworn or understood duty within their position of trust. However, there are the most severe punishments within law for dereliction of one's duty. There are also the moral consequences of being accountable for violation of trust that harmed the life of your known to you target. Those of us within the population that choose to hold sworn duty and positions of trust are especially trained or conscious of the boundaries. Should one cross a line, it is known within, instantly.

The 9th Judicial District, Office of the District Attorney Martin Beeson has now sat upon the heap of sworn or known duty individuals, in all things accommodations tax for a soon to be public record of two years, ten months.

A local attorney holds the next link of duty within the chain and has held that duty for public record verified of two years, four months. Attorneys are sworn officers of the court, the weight of responsibility is great.

The 501C-6 entity of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Assoc. and the old tourism board of directors fills into this chain of sworn or known duty to all at the same time as does the City of Glenwood Springs Administration with a calendar count of two years and five months in soon to be known public record.

A still sitting council member fills in the next link in the chain of sworn or known duty to all with a calendar tally of one year and four months. With all other sitting and former council members falling into line immediately behind him. It is reasonable to assume the newest council members are enough up to speed due to mass public exposure that by now, they can be counted on as part of the chain of sworn or known duty.

In the eyes of law it matters not who falls in behind the 9th Judicial District Office of the District Attorney Martin Beeson and his legal agents of investigation such as law enforcement officers.

The only governing authority over our district attorney is our Board of County Commissioners. Above them and over us all, is the court.

The buck stops on this entire debacle with Martin Beeson and the authority that governs him.

There is no remedy within law to restore trust.

The only remedy within law to prevent harm is enforcement of law. That buck has nothing to do with the Office of the District Attorney.

All too often, more so when we have a sitting D.A. that capitalizes on both existing and assumed to be existing bonds he personally may or may not have with our law enforcement officers, our cops forget that they serve no one.

Our law enforcement is in place to enforce law, not serve law. Attorneys serve law. Judges preside over law.

Our cops serve and protect. It is their sworn duty and the only defense or offense between the people they watch over and our adversarial judicial system.

In the case of this last whistle, public record documents two years, ten months she spoke to a law enforcement officer. The same awareness as our district attorney. The fumble of two years, nine months and two weeks before her voice was allowed to speak again to law enforcement now reveals how deep that fumble of sworn and known duty runs.

What this citizen wants to know, outside of his field of work which also falls within sworn duty, is how much deeper does the loss within the core of our community have to go before our commissioners and council do their duty and investigate?

Anonymous said...

All that's left is to inform the public. This thing's so obvious and so well documented nobody needs more investigation. It doesn't matter if it still has to run through court strength investigating, there's so much damage to us as a community, council needs to just clean it up. I mean, exactly what are we getting from keeping this relationship with the chamber's board going? All I can see is the short end of the stick. Any other council, any other nonprofit or city government would pull completely away until all questions are laid to rest.

You are right though on what you say. The legal and duty bound is a whole other story. Time for commissioners to step in. Have to wonder why they haven't publically let that be known that they're aware.