With the start of the new year, the Town of Palmer Lake looks to rebuild after an unfortunate series of events through the month of December which led to the resignation of one Board of Trustee member, the town manager and the town attorney.
Palmer Lake’s Board of Trustees had its first regular meeting of the year Jan. 9 at Palmer Lake Town Hall, where interim town management was introduced in the wake of the December resignations.
During its Dec. 12 meeting, the Board of Trustees addressed letters of no confidence received from The Citizens for a Better Palmer Lake, calling for the dismissal of Trustee Gary Faust, Mayor John Cressman and town attorney Maureen Juran. The 100-member group, founded over the summer, made claim to several reasons for the officials’ removal, one of which was a refusal to answer questions from the community regarding a variety of concerns over the preceding months.
Cressman reported that the board operates as a unit for the town and although disagreements are inevitable, every person who serves on the board has the town’s best interests in mind. Trustee Glant Havenar said Cressman continues to receive community support and provided a petition with 126 residential signatures in the support of the mayor. She thanked Cressman for his time and service within the community.
Faust, who made an official statement regarding the accusations earlier in the Dec. 12 meeting, later found himself in a heated discussion which grew increasingly hostile with fellow trustees, which led Faust to announce he was resigning from the Board of Trustees and leave the meeting prematurely. His official resignation letter was received the following Monday.
On Dec. 18, during a special meeting of the board, Cressman announced that town manager Valerie Remington and town attorney Juran had resigned. The town is now accepting applicants to fill the open trustee position. The application period is open through 4 p.m. Jan. 15. With the change in town management personnel, trustees stated all access to accounts and municipal buildings have been changed for security reasons.
Several citizens expressed a willingness to assist the town in any way possible until suitable replacements could be hired, including a permanent town clerk, town manager or combination thereof, and a town attorney. Trustee Mark Schuler noted Bob Radosevich, a former deputy town clerk and former mayor, offered to help months prior.
Radosevich, who was in attendance for the Dec. 18 meeting, confirmed he was willing to help on a part-time basis for at least six months. He was later approved by the trustees as the town’s interim town manager. Radosevich has been involved with the Citizens for a Better Palmer Lake. The citizen’s advocacy group stated it had compiled a list of changes and concerns needing to be addressed to present to the board. However, the group decided with Radosevich now in an administrative role and helping to sort out many of the town’s issues and loose ends, it would give him time to do the job.
Trish Flake, a co-founder of Citizens for a Better Palmer Lake and a former trustee, said the group is encouraged to see some of its issues already being addressed.
“With the resignations that occurred in the last month, we’re really excited to see what the future holds with some new staff members, a new trustee and a new attorney,” Flake said. “Now it feels like people are excited to get things back on track the way they are supposed to be.”
Group co-founder Karen Stuth said the Dec. 18 was different from past meetings and the board was respectful and listened to citizens in attendance.
“It was very different from any meeting I’ve been to for years,” Stuth said. “I was just so impressed. People were actually crying because they were so pleased. … That was such a complete turnaround of even one month ago.”
Radosevich said residents were asking questions and voicing concerns in the weeks and months leading up to the citizens group submitting its letters of no confidence. These concerns would start in the unscheduled public comments portion of board meetings, when discussion or debate was not part of protocal.
Eventually, citizens would request to have time added to the upcoming agendas to discuss their concerns with the trustees, to which they would be denied by the previous town management, Radosevich said.
“When you have all these questions and you don’t get any answers, that’s when rumors start to go around,” he said.
At the Jan. 9 trustees meeting, Cressman introduced Judy Egbert as the town’s consulting town clerk, also a part-time interim, who discussed the specifics of hiring a permanent clerk with trustees. In addition, Scott Krob was introduced as a part of the town’s interim attorney, along with Matthew Krob, from a legal firm which specializes in municipal law, Scott Krob said.
The trustees and Egbert discussed the likelihood of finding and recruiting one person to serve as a town clerk-manager capacity as opposed to a town clerk-treasurer or solely a town clerk. No decisions were made regarding the full scope of the upcoming position.
As Radosevich sifts through piles of disarrayed paperwork in the town offices piecing information together, he said he has discovered the audio of the Dec. 12 meeting is missing from the flash drive on which the recorded audio file was supposed to have saved. He speculates the flash drive may not have been properly connected at the time of recording in that instance. He also said multiple flash drives containing audio records of meetings stored in a drawer were discovered at the town office and the interim management is still going through their contents. As of Jan. 10, Radosevich said audio recordings of some other past meetings prior to Dec. 12 appear to be missing as well.
Radosevich said he hopes to help the town return to a level of transparency its board, staff and residents need to remain fully informed.
The next regular Board of Trustees meeting will be 6 p.m. Jan. 23 at town hall.