Westminster city councilor Bruce Baker made a pitch for Councilors he agrees with packing city boards and committees with people who share his agenda in as Dec. 7 email.
The email, sent Dec. 7 to Mayor Nancy McNally, Mayor Pro Tem David DeMott, Councilors Rich Seymour and Lindsey Emmons, discussed replacing board members who align with his views.
Two other councilors, Obi Ezeadi and Sarah Nurmela, were left off of the email’s To: List.
“Last night I wanted to talk about using the end of Board members terms to replace ongoing board members with our board members. Right now, except for four regular members we chose (alternates do not count) all of our boards and commissions members are NOT ours!” he wrote in the email.
“However if the boards and commissions are not `ours” and share our philosophies, how will we change the course of the City? I say we MUST begin the process to put people that share our philosophy, our vision of Westminster, on the Planning commission,” he wrote.
The letter was obtained by Westminster residents in a Colorado Open Records records request. Carol Campbell, a former environmental advisory board member, described what she sees the purpose of boards as.
“They work for us, the city, people that live here,” Campbell said. “They are supposed to represent the thoughts and interests of what the people want, not what the council necessarily wants.”
Baker disagrees. He thinks the boards should be in line with the council’s views.
“We have elections to say who we want making decisions for us,” he said. “Citizens of the city run this city, and they run it by choosing people in an open and fair election to who they want in there and then it’s up to those people to guide the city.”
When the decision to reappoint board members first came on Westminster City Council’s agenda, Baker said the decision to reappoint the members should come after the strategic planning retreat, which was Jan. 29 and Jan. 30, to give the members an opportunity to see if they align with the plan.
Each council member addressed in the email voted for the item to be tabled, which was 5-2 with only councilors Obi Ezeadi and Sarah Nurmela dissenting.
After the vote to table members, Seymour said in a separate interview he would not replace the board members `wholesale’ and there were not any specific boards he saw better fits.
Then, the item was placed back on the Jan. 24 meeting agenda by Mayor Pro Tem David DeMott’s request and council voted to reappoint board members 6-1, Baker was the only councilor voting no.
DeMott has repeatedly said the reason he voted to table the board was to check in with board members before reappointing them.
“That’s not something we’ve done in the past, but I think it would be constructive for both parties, and that’s not to say that’s because the council will get rid of you, it’s a good touch base for your feedback and maybe check attendance,” he said at the Jan. 24 city council meeting.
At the Jan. 24 meeting, Baker discussed change.
“Change is always hard,” he said. “I think we need to openly recognize that these are terms, these are two-year terms, and these are not entitlements and to make the difficult change I would say let’s step up and make that change.”
An email from Courtney Teasdale to McNally also explains an interview Teasdale had for a board position. She declined the opportunity to pursue the positions she originally sought. She applied for Special Permits and Licensing, Election Commission and Human Services boards.
“The reason I’m writing this e-mail is that I didn’t have the best feeling after leaving the interview,” she wrote.
“The reason I felt uneasy after leaving the interview was because of Councilor Baker’s question. I felt it was meant to be ‘tricky,’ or it was meant for us to ‘show which side of the water issue’ we’re on, and had nothing to do with my application,” she wrote.
In an interview, Teasdale said each councilor asked one question. She felt Baker’s question was an attempt to gauge her political affiliations, which she said was whether she approved of the inclusivity board denying the Water Warriors’ request to plead their case to the board.
“I was on the local licensing authority for the city of Thornton, I’m a seasoned finance professional and I’ve lived in the city of Westminster almost my entire life,” she said. “I think those are the things that should matter. (Baker’s) demeanor, it feels very divisive.”
Baker said that he wants board members that share his same goals.
“I want most of (board members) to be looking at the goals of the city the same way I do. But at the same time, I want them to have the courage and independence to say I see it differently,” he said.
Baker said the question came from the recall election in the summer of 2021 when he asked the Inclusivity Board to weigh in on the issue of the city clerk disallowing signatures. The board declined.
Teasdale said that after she sent the email to McNally, the mayor gave her a call to ask she keep her application in the pool. She did but was not chosen for any of the boards.
“I felt like me saying something about councilor Baker was putting my nail in the coffin,” she said.
No Private Meetings
Baker also asked the council members addressed on the email to respond as individuals so “this does not becomes a virtual meeting.”
He also mentions a meeting on Dec. 4 after asking them to talk in a group and noting that it must be public.
“Our meeting on Saturday, Dec 4 has been the only time we have done that, and there was less than an hour that we got to set our agenda. the other 7 hours was programmed with tasks for us to do,” he wrote. “Notice that I am sending this email to `our’ side. I did not include Sarah (councilor Sarah Nurmela) and Obi (councilor Obi Ezeadi) nor Jody (interim city manager Jody Andrews.)”
On Dec. 4, there was a special city council study session. Andy Le, a spokesperson for the city of Westminster, said the meeting lasted for seven hours and councilors discussed their protocols.
Baker hinted at a meeting before the public meeting in the email, but in an interview said that there was no private meeting with those addressed in the email. Mayor McNally confirmed his response.
“There have been no meetings that haven’t been in public,” McNally said.
According to Colorado’s Sunshine Law, “any state or local government body that meets to discuss public business or to take formal action do so in meetings that are open to the public. Under the law, “meeting” refers to any kind of gathering, convened to discuss public business, whether in person, by telephone, electronically, or by other means of communication. Electronic mail messages can be considered “meetings: under the statute.”
“Local public bodies must open meetings of a quorum or three or more members, whichever is fewer, at which public business is discussed or formal action may be taken,” it says.
Mayor McNally Says No
Mayor McNally forwarded the email to all of the councilors, the city manager and the city attorney David Frankel, voicing her disappointment.
“Do NOT reply to all or even respond,” she wrote. “First, I was elected to work with 6 other people and three staff members. The e-mail below does not represent my thinking and how I was to lead.”
“(Five) people were elected to council this year, there is no “our” side. I am not about excluding anyone from discussion about direction and policy for Westminster,” she wrote.