Thornton City Councilors will go into a closed-door executive session Oct. 5 to discuss whether Ward 1 City Councilor Jacque Phillips is really living in her ward.
Phillips, elected to the City Council in 2015, was hired in June as the executive director for the San Luis Valley’s Board of Cooperative Education Services, an Alamosa-based group of 14 southern Colorado school districts. The group is designed to offer cooperative programs to those individual districts, their teachers, students and families. Programs can include education and education technology support, special education support and health and CPR training.
The residency issue arose at the City Council's Sept. 28 meeting when resident Evan Underwood brought it up during the public comment period.
“It doesn't seem at all like you were being transparent with your Ward 1 residents on what your full-time job is and how that affects your capacity to truly represent ward 1,” Underwood said. “If anything, it seems as if you were going out of your way to cover up your new life change in Alamosa.”
Phillips has been critical of Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, recently noting that the mayor had attended a reception at the White House in Washington, D.C. in August without informing all City Councilors.
Later in the Sept. 28 meeting, Kulmann promised to bring the matter to Councilors during an executive session Oct. 5.
“There are a lot of questions and concerns I have and the council needs to understand the risk that we have been put in by this information being withheld, especially for this long, and how our charter requires us to respond,” Kulmann said. “The only other thing I'll say for now is that this is disappointing. And it's interesting how transparency is the battle cry, except when it's not.”
In a heated exchange between the mayor and Phillips that followed, the councilor said it was not an issue and said she had discussed the position with the Thornton City Attorney.
“I don't know what this is right now, but I don't think a mayor can go after a councilor like this, in public comments,” Phillips said.
Interim City Attorney Bill Tuthill said the councilor's new job was news to him.
“I don't know what Ms. Phillips is talking about in terms of talking to the attorney,” Tuthill said. “I will tell you, I have had no conversation with her about this topic.”
Speaking via telephone later, Phillips said she attended the Sept. 28 meeting via teleconferencing app Zoom and said that she was in Alamosa at the time. She plans to attend Oct. 5's executive session in person, however.
“They seem to think I suddenly took a five-day-a-week job in Alamosa and have moved. That is completely wrong,” Phillips said. “I run a law office. Do I also have this executive director job? Yes. Do I also have other jobs? Yes. I've always done contract work all over the place. This is not the thing they think it is.”
Phillips, an attorney, said she works with clients around the country regularly. She's worked with clients in Aspen and Washington D.C., traveling to those cities regularly. She maintains her home and her office in Ward 1 Thornton.
Phillips said much of her work requires her to have signed non-disclosure agreements and that she is not allowed to discuss many of the details of that work.
“I live in Thornton,” she said. “That's easy to research. Look at my voter record. Look at my house. There is no problem, and there should never be a question of if I live in Thornton.”
Phillips said the controversy is political, designed to make her look bad, and that she has done nothing wrong.
“This is the mayor coming after me. They want to steal the Ward 1 seat by coming up with a reason why the seat should be vacant,” she said.
She said she regularly attends Council meetings via Zoom, including meetings where she is not in the city. She couldn't say how often she had attended a Thornton meeting while being out of town and also could not say the last time she attended a Thornton meeting while at her home in Thornton.
She said she is confident that she has the support of her Ward 1 constituents.
“This idea, that because one of my jobs is not in Thornton, I don't know what it is,” she said. “It's a big 'So what?' So one of my jobs is outside of Thornton. So what? So I can't serve on the council? That makes no sense.”
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