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As The SUN noted last week, I recently requested documents from town staff, and the mayor then publicly accused me of wanting to stymie the Wal-Mart development. While I certainly fear the world’s largest retailer will devour our small-town economy, not to mention a good bit of our small-town charm, Wal-Mart was not the purpose for the record request that so outraged his honor. It was my suspicion of illegal governance. And those suspicions were confirmed.
Last year, the town council began the process of annexing Alpha Drive into Pagosa’s official boundaries. It was a move prompted by the need to appease Wal-Mart at seemingly all costs. I won’t bore readers with a detailed discussion of the many ways in which the process violated our state’s laws and constitution. Suffice it to say, no town can begin annexation proceedings for a road it claims to own (which our town did) until it actually owns said road (which our town did not). Should anyone care for more detail, I welcome all calls. As the mayor well knows, I certainly have the documents to back up my position.
The Alpha Drive debacle is not an isolated incident. I have repeatedly witnessed our town’s attorney, our town’s manager, and members of our town’s council stubbornly ignore the law when the law did not serve their purpose. They act as they wish, rather than as the law demands. They then dare anyone to object, knowing most people do not have the financial resources or the iron stomach needed to engage in litigation. It’s a sad but familiar strategy that our leaders all-too frequently employ.
The mayor can ridicule me and bad-mouth my name to anyone who cares to listen. I’m a lawyer and that sort of disrespectful behavior just comes with the job. I ask for council documents and I attend council meetings simply to shine a little light and better watch a local government that hates to be watched. By their latest reaction, it’s obvious the town’s business is just easier to conduct in the dark. This time, the council illegally annexed Alpha Drive. It doesn’t take much curiosity to begin to wonder whose drive, or driveway, is next. Once officials quit respecting laws, they quit respecting the people the laws are designed to protect. And then, we’re all in trouble.