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Monument candidates, trustees discuss lack of transparency, communication

March 12, 2018 Updated: March 12, 2018 at 10:29 pm
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(Courtesy townofmonument.org)

Several candidates in Monument's April 3 election expressed disappointment during a public forum Monday in how the town has handled an investigation into two of its highest-paid employees.

Town trustees and other leaders could have done more to inform the public after Town Manager Chris Lowe and Police Chief Jacob Shirk were placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 5, said several candidates who are challenging incumbents for four trustee seats.

During a question period as the forum ended at the administration building for Lewis-Palmer School District 38, a Gazette reporter asked about a lack of transparency regarding the paid leaves.

"Even with investigations, little pieces of information can come out - like where they are in the process," trustee candidate Laurie Clark told dozens of people who attended. "I would like to see that happening more frequently, especially in this situation."

Shirk returned to work Feb. 19. Lowe remains suspended amid allegations of misconduct, including sexual harassment. The board had voted to place both on leave four days after the chief emailed trustees a memo complaining about Lowe's behavior.

Lowe has denied any wrongdoing. He recently told The Gazette that the town has not advised him why he has been suspended.

Town elected officials - including Trustee Don Wilson, who's running for mayor against Trustee Jeffrey Bornstein, and the town's current mayor - have declined to discuss the allegations against Lowe, citing the pending investigation and confidential personnel matters.

"It's a legal decision," Trustee Shea Medlicott said at the forum, adding that the town attorney has advised that trustees "refrain from speaking about the investigation."

The Gazette tried unsuccessfully to obtain Shirk's complaint through a Colorado Open Records Act request, but one exemption that the town cited in its denial shed light on at least some of the complaint's contents.

In a letter replying to The Gazette's request, Town Clerk Laura Hogan referred to a statute that keeps sexual harassment complaints private.

In addition to Clark, the race's two other newcomer candidates - Jeff Lampman and Ron Stephens - agreed that more could have been done to inform the public.

"If you have a disagreement, I think it should be handled through the proper channels in the appropriate manner," Stephens said. "I also would recommend better communication as far as letting people know where things stand and why they are the way they are."

Wilson and Trustee Kelly Elliott acknowledged that communication between town leaders and citizens could be improved.

"I mentioned earlier that I do believe that the town could do better as far as transparency and getting the basic gist of what's of going on publicized," Wilson said. "I would hope that in the future we could make better communications."

Bornstein declined to answer The Gazette's question after the forum, which was sponsored by the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

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