A tumultuous reign for Mayor Worthey
Pent-up anger that erupted in rage, trustees in Green Mountain Falls let loose April 2 on Mayor Lorrie Worthey. At issue is the missing paperwork for what turned out to be a $14,046 loan from El Paso County to cover emergency expenses during the Waldo Canyon Fire. “Anything with regard to money you need to write down,” said the town attorney Lisa Tormoen Hickey.
Trustee Howard Price started the tirade over the lack of communication from the mayor, about the loan. “We were told it was a gift; now we find out it's not a gift and we have to pay it back,” he said. “I can get no history on this.”
Why was there no intergovernmental agreement with El Paso County over the loan, Price said. “I did not vote on a loan so I'd like to know how a gift became an indenture to the town,” he said, raising his voice a notch. “What are you doing behind closed doors and where is the transparency in this? I want to know.”
Reticent for the most part, Worthey did say the issue of the funds had been discussed among the trustees, particularly during executive sessions. Trustee Ralph LoCascio didn't buy it. “You're not giving us answers, Lorrie, which makes us very uncomfortable and not trustworthy. How did we end up this way?” he said. “If you don't give us answers, I can only conclude that you are doing this in a malicious manner. Explain to us how it is not.”
While Worthey didn't react, trustee Mac Pitrone was revved up, raising his voice with each sentence. “If there had been some communication this would all be done; but it never happened,” he said. “We are now finding ourselves with $14,000 of our contingency fund at risk. Because if we write this grant and it's refused and the county wants its money back, that's where it's going to come from.”
With an eye on setting precedents, Pitrone continued. “If we let this slide, there's no telling where it will go,” Pitrone said.
The grant refers to a pending application to FEMA to cover the loan from the county. According to mayor pro tem Jane Newberry, if the application is successful, FEMA would grant 75 percent of the total while the state would pick up the remainder. “The state has funding for situations like ours,” she writes in an email.
With the funding issue still brewing, the trustees moved on to the subject of a grievance against the board filed recently by public works director Rob McArthur. “We are not going talk about details; this is not on the agenda,” Hickey said.
In fact, Hickey was at the meeting to go over procedures, including the role of the mayor as well as the board.
But with the grievance brewing that evening, and the trustees, LoCascio in particular, seeking a solution to the issue, the board adjourned in executive session after the meeting. According to Worthey, the session lasted until nearly 11 p.m.
“At the board's request, I am considering drafting a comprehensive memo,” Worthey said the next day. Worthey declined to comment on the subject of the grievance or the memo but did emphasize the word “considering.”
The next meeting of the board is April 16.