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Unbelievable

Dear Editor:

 What the Town of Pagosa Springs is willing to do to shortcut due process to push Wal-Mart through is simply unbelievable!

 Since the Land Use and Development Code (LUDC) has no process laid out for appealing a Design Review decision, at the last town council meeting an agreement negotiated by Town Attorney Bob Cole was presented to council to approve. The agreement was described as a “stipulated” agreement, meaning that all parties to be governed by the appeal procedures (Town, Wal-Mart, and Vivian and Steve Rader, who had filed the appeal) agree to it.

 What was incredible was that the town attorney had removed the Raders’ notarized signatures from one version of the agreement and placed it on a revised document, as though the Raders had signed and notarized that revised document.

 An attorney had actually submitted a fraudulent document to town council. Shouldn’t that put attorney Cole’s license in jeopardy? But, most members of town council were not in the least offended. Unbelievable!

 Then, town council, with the exception of Councilman Schanzenbaker, seemed to think it was not a big deal because the changes seemed minor. Unbelievable!

 It was not the substance of the changes that is at issue. It is the fraud committed on council and the public that is the concern — the dishonesty of the process. How can we ever trust any document that the town has filed if they are so willing to bend the rules, twist the ethics, and alter documents to suit their purpose?

 Worse yet, when Councilman Schanzenbaker recommended a continuance to get a new agreement completed in an honest way, the idea was dismissed. No time to do things the right and honest way when Wal-Mart waits in the wings. Unbelievable!

 As if the falsified document isn’t enough, Mayor Aragon shut down any further discussion from Councilman Schanzenbaker by loudly saying, “You are out of order!”

 Doesn’t a councilman have a right to ask clarifying questions, make suggestions or express his views? Hasn’t he earned that right by being elected by the voters just like the mayor or the other council members? Not if it might delay getting Wal-Mart through — even if it is to do things the right way. Unbelievable!

 And, what did the mayor mean when he admonished Councilman Schanzenbaker that he should simply read his packet to be informed. What was in the packet was the falsified document. Unbelievable!

 One citizen dared to speak before town council expressing her disbelief that town government would allow such illegalities. She stated how our trust is shaken and how due process is broken. After attorney Cole responded to her, that it was no big deal (moving the notarized signature page from one original document to a new edited version) because the changes were “minor,” she asked “can I respond?” The mayor said brusquely, “No, you may not!” Unbelievable!

 On Thursday, I felt like I was in a foreign country — just who was at the center running these proceedings? If felt more like a dictatorship than a democracy. Unbelievable!

Susi Cochran

This story was posted on October 10, 2012.