Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Four seats and four candidates for April election after resignation and a candidate withdrawl

February, 07 2020 | Local News

By Amber McIver-Traywick

The Surveyor

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, Berthoud Town Board Trustee Pete Tomassi notified Mayor Will Karspeck of his decision to resign effective immediately. The catalyst for Tomassi’s exit from the board came after a decision by the majority of the board during the Tuesday, Jan. 28, town board meeting to forgo a second reading of an ordinance that approved $23 million in funding for the Waggener Farm Park and recreation center. With Tomassi’s exit, four vacancies will be available on the board leading up to the April elections.

In an email from Town Clerk Christian Samora, it was confirmed that the trustee vacancy left by Tomassi’s resignation would need to be filled by appointment before the upcoming April Election. State statutes require that town board vacancies be filled within 60 days. Additionally, on Monday, Feb. 3, Trustee Brian Laak, who had filed paperwork to run in the upcoming election for another four-year term, withdrew his nomination and will not be a candidate. This means there are four candidates running for four seats at-large, Lonnie Stevens, Mike Grace, May Soricelli and Jeff Hindman.

In that email Samora confirmed that, “The Municipal Election Code requires that the candidates receiving the highest number of votes are elected to the 4-year terms.  And, it also requires that candidates receiving lower vote counts are elected to terms that are less than four years … Normally all of the terms for trustee would be four years; however, when a vacancy occurs, the term must be shortened to maintain the staggering of the terms.” This means that the seat left vacant by Tomassi will be filled by the individual with the lowest number of votes to fulfill a 2-year term.

Tomassi’s major points of contention for resigning came from issues and decisions the board had made during his tenure including what he states is a conflict of interest with Kyle Thomas, who made a presentation at the Jan. 28 meeting on behalf of the certificate of participation (COP) underwriter D.A. Davidson now tasked with funding the recreation center. COPs are a method of funding similar to bonds that are considered a lease agreement. This type of debt does not require a vote from the public to secure as a bond would have.

Thomas was previously employed by George K. Baum, the company that was used for a community survey to see what the public interest was in a recreation center. Thomas was also a contributor to an organization “Kids and Community” that lobbied in favor of the ballot initiative for the town to acquire a $30 million bond for a recreation facility in November 2018, which his company would underwrite. George K. Baum was purchased by Stifel Financial Corp. and consequently would not provide the COP funding. Town Administrator Chris Kirk sought other funding and brought Kyle Thomas, now with D.A Davidson to underwrite the COP

Tomassi said during a meeting in December 2019 he asked the trustees to take the recreation center issue to the voters again. In November 2018 Berthoud citizens were asked to vote on whether they wanted the town to purchase the bond for $30 million for a recreation center which was voted down. That was the point the town began pursuing the COP option which did not have to be voted on by the community. Tomassi said now as compared to 2018 the town had a clear plan for what the facility would be, “I recommended to the trustees again, put this before the voters now that we know what the cost will be, what the plans will be … go to the voters and ask them again and they (trustees) rejected it flat out they did not want the consent of the people they are tasked to govern in the community.”

The decision by the trustees to not have a second reading of the ordinance, giving the public an opportunity for feedback was the tipping point for Tomassi, “At that point I realized if this group of people is willing to do this then what else are they willing to do as long as they think that they can have a majority … without the consent of the people … at that point I knew that I could no longer associate with them … I could no longer be a trustee on a board that disregards that principle,” he said.

Kirk said it has been the practice of the board in the past to have second readings but there is no statute that requires it, “The town board had been discussing COPs for an extended period of time – they felt like they had discussed it more than enough … they had made the policy decision when they hired the underwriter,” he explained. Kirk continued by saying, “I respect Trustee Tomassi‘s decision. I’ve enjoyed working with him and respect him very much, and I was disappointed when he left, he’s a principled guy and that was his choice.”

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