The first meeting of the reconfigured board of directors for the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority included some new philosophy and some old lawsuits.
The board met on Wednesday night and held a brief regular meeting before going into executive session. Three citizen appointees — all carry-overs from the dissolved all-citizen board of the past — were voted into three leadership positions on the new board: John Ward, as board chair; Rick Head, as vice chair; and Carson Schmitz, as treasurer.
Ward has been a valley resident for decades. He now lives in the North 40, a neighborhood of single-family homes in the Aspen Business Center that falls under the APCHA category of “resident occupied.”
“I think this is a great asset to our community,” Ward said of APCHA and its programs.
Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman is a new board member representing the county. Aspen Councilman Skippy Mesirow will represent the city on the reconfigured entity.
Previously, the APCHA board did not have any elected officials on it. Now that the board has a voting member representing both the county and the city, policy decisions can become official without any additional review from county and city governments.
Newman voiced support to have the board’s leadership made up of its public representatives.
“It shows that we are not being run by elected officials. The public is still very much engaged and I appreciate you guys stepping up,” Newman said.
While the public does not actually choose which citizens sit on the board, its public representatives are appointed by a consensus of county commissioners and city council members.
Newman also suggested that in an act of good faith, the APCHA board cease its customary reading of the rules of decorum prior to the public comment portion of the meeting.
“It’s a new board, it’s a new time,” he said.
The rules of decorum read, in part, “Citizens, APCHA staff and APCHA board members alike must be allowed to state their positions in a courteous atmosphere that is free of intimidation, profanity, personal affronts, threats of violence or the use of APCHA as a forum for politics.”
APCHA attorney Tom Smith acknowledged that there is standing litigation over the rules of decorum that is currently unresolved. Lee Mulcahy, a Burlingame resident who has been in a years-long battle with the authority over compliance relating to work requirements, has sued on the grounds that the rules of decorum violate First Amendment rights.
Mesirow suggested that the reading of the rules could stand for now and be addressed if they seem unneeded as the new board gets settled over the next couple of months. Schmitz agreed, noting that public comments have violated the rules in the past.
“I’ve been here for some pretty uncomfortable public comments that definitely needed to have these read at the beginning, so I think it’s appropriate,” Schmitz said.
County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury, who serves as the alternate to Newman on the new APCHA board, supported his request for a fresh start and suggested posting the rules to the agenda but not formally stating them at each meeting.
Newman offered a motion to “cease the rules of decorum understanding that that is how we operate anyway in terms of public comment.” The motion passed unanimously.
However, Newman became uncomfortable later in the meeting when Mulcahy stood behind him to use his cell phone to film portions of the public comment period. Newman told Mulcahy he could not stand near the table where the board was sitting.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Mulcahy went back and forth with APCHA executive director Mike Kosdrosky. Mulcahy gave the new board his account of the timeline regarding his compliance checks, which he said were too close together.
Kosdrosky used his allotted time on the agenda to counterpoint Mulcahy’s claims. He said he called Mulcahy at the time of the original notice of violations and encouraged him to appeal to the APCHA board.
“I want the public to understand this because they don’t know,” Kosdrosky said.
“He’s lying,” Mulcahy said from the audience.
Mulcahy’s pending lawsuits in Colorado District Court, the Colorado Court of Appeals and U.S. District Court were all discussed Wednesday night among Smith, the board and APCHA staff under executive session. The board also was briefed on four other lawsuits during that time.
Included in the new intergovernmental agreement, or IGA, between the city and the county setting up the new APCHA board is a directive that the board create a strategic plan and a work plan within its first year.
Schmitz said he is excited to work on those goals, as well as elements of governance that were left out of the IGA, such as who should oversee the APCHA executive director. Currently it is a city staff position that reports to the city manager.
“It needs to be ultimately where the executive director reports to one entity and I think it should be this board,” he said.
Ward said his main passion is to address the underfunded capital reserves of a number of the APCHA inventory’s homeowner associations. He also pointed out that right now, due to overwhelming demand for subsidized housing, homeowners get top dollar when they sell their homes, regardless of how much upkeep they invested in the unit.
“[I want to] work out [that] you don’t always get full sales price for property that is subgrade,” he said.
Overall, he praised APCHA’s programs and where the new board will take them in the future.
“This is an important asset to our community, it’s an asset that we should work to really protect,” Ward said.