Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said he intends to send a reply today to rancher José Miranda regarding his complaint of how the Glassier Open Space agricultural lease decision was made.
Miranda, owner of Rocking TT Bar in Carbondale, submitted a 20-page application to the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails selection committee to be considered for the farmstead component of the updated 2020 management plan for the 282-acre parcel in Emma.
According to his partner, Erin Cuseo — herself a vegetable farmer and proprietor of Erin’s Acres Farms — Miranda felt optimistic about his proposal, given the clearly explained scoring system that would determine which candidate would earn the coveted leaseholder position.
She said Miranda found out he had not been selected before that scoring had even been completed, a detail Miranda confirms in his complaint.
“On Jan. 27, I was told that the results were still being compiled, even though a selection had been made. It was not until Feb. 1 that I received scoring results,” he wrote.
Additionally, Miranda alleges that certain scoring criteria were never completed at all, and yet a decision to recommend a candidate to the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners had been made, regardless.
“During the lease review process, references listed in my proposal were not contacted. Jan. 25 was scheduled for committee members’ checking of references. This part of the process was not conducted, yet it was scored for every applicant,” he wrote.
Then there were what he perceived as confounding scores themselves: one proposal received a score of 6 in a category with a maximum possible score of 5, for instance. Another proposal saw an entire category not receive a score at all.
“Scorecards provided on Feb. 1 had numerical mistakes and were incomplete and inconsistent,” he wrote.
The county’s request for proposal explained explicitly that the scoring system would inform the final award decision.
“Award shall be made to the responsible proposer whose total score is highest, considering all selection criteria,” it said. “No other factors or criteria shall be used in the evaluation.”
Ultimately, Miranda requested that the county review the decision awarding the lease management of the open space to Alyssa Barsanti’s Marigold Livestock Company — which already lists the Glassier Open Space’s 0543 Hooks Spur Road as its company address — be reconsidered.
“I formally request that all proposals submitted for the Glassier Open Space agricultural leases be reviewed and scored, using the criteria provided, by the Board of Pitkin County Commissioners and the actions of the Selection Committee be reviewed by the Open Space and Trails Board of Trustees, followed with appropriate disciplinary action,” he wrote.
For Cuseo’s part, she emphasized a shared desire to see a fair process.
“It really doesn’t matter who gets it, as long as it’s fair,” she said.
Peacock was unable to disclose his findings after conducting his investigation Wednesday evening, as he had not yet sent those findings to Miranda.
In 2014, the 137-acre Glassier Ranch, bounded on two sides by Red Ridge Ranch, was purchased for $5.9 million. Pitkin and Eagle counties each contributed $2.45 million; Great Outdoors Colorado put $1 million toward the acquisition. Pitkin County holds title in fee to the parcel; Eagle County holds a conservation easement on the property. Under an intergovernmental agreement, Pitkin County manages and maintains the property with Eagle County’s consent. Combined with the 145-acre Red Ridge Ranch, the two created the Glassier Open Space.
First-ever procurement appeal
In 2015, a management plan was designed for the area, and in 2020 was updated. Among that plan is a significant farmstead component, which includes evaluating options for housing a full-time caretaker of the surrounding land; rehabilitating and stabilizing the “historically significant accessory structures” on the land; and a five-year interim leasing plan that would allow the leaseholder to in the future operate the entire farmstead as single unit.
While leasing agreements through OST is not unusual — “We have an agricultural lease program,” Peacock said — a procurement appeal such as that filed by Miranda is.
“This is the first procurement appeal I’ve had in 10 years since I’ve been here,” Peacock said Thursday. Still, an extensive process is in place to review those complaints, he continued.
“All the documents leading up to the RFP and any documents compiled by the committee are put together, along with the appeal. They actually come to me for review and determination of validity,” he explained. “If I determine that the appeal is valid … generally, if it’s anything that’s going to change the selection process, it’s a reinitiation of the procurement process. If I determine that the appeal is not valid, then we would notify the protesting party, and if they don’t accept my determination, they can appeal that to the procurement appeals.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported José Miranda's current employment.