In an effort to do damage control, El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark publicly defended Green Mountain Falls' Mayor Lorrie Worthey to the board of trustees.
At issue was the verbal scourge Worthey received from trustees Mac Pitrone, Howard Price and Ralph LoCascio at the board meeting two weeks earlier on April 2. Inflamed about a lack of communication from the mayor, the trustees erupted over a $14,046 check she received from El Paso County July 26.
As Worthey insisted she had communicated with Pitrone as well as Mayor pro tem Jane Newberry, the former denied the claim while Newberry made reference near the end of the meeting.
The check covered the town's emergency expenses incurred by the police and public works' departments during the Waldo Canyon Fire. Without the paperwork as a reference, the trustees charged Worthey with placing the town in debt to the county.
To date, the debt remains.
In her favor, however, Worthey was told by the county budget office that the town could repay the $14,046 upon receipt of a FEMA grant. In a further mix up, Worthey did not sign the grant application.
“The mayor approached me as she was ready to sign the application for the FEMA funds and was concerned about some of the numbers and wanted to make sure they were accurate,” Clark said. “So she chose at that time not to sign the application.”
If things weren't in enough of a mess, by the time the town finally did submit the grant, FEMA rejected the application. “When we first contacted FEMA they said that the Green Mountain Falls' application had already been processed,” Clark said. “We came to find out that it was the fire department, not the town, so it was a comedy of errors that wasn't funny.”
Speaking of debt, the county is also on the hook for expenses relating to the fire in June. “We certainly learn how we do things but the county has not received its reimbursement,” Clark said. “We are out millions and millions of dollars in our budget and are just holding steady until we get our money from the federal government. It takes about a year.”
Pitrone got his last digs in before conceding that the town valued its relationship with the county. “I'm still upset that the whole issue has gone around the board of trustees and I will remain upset about that for some time,” he said. “We work real hard to balance our budget, unlike a lot of the governments around us.”
Mayor pro tem Jane Newberry was a bit softer in her assessment.
“It was quite a breakdown in communication; some of the things that are pretty common-sense didn't happen,” she said. “But in the end, the FEMA grant is turned in, it's done. And all the rest of this is water under the bridge and I'd like to just move forward.”