The Cortez Sanitation District threw a wrench into the Montezuma County Commissioners’ race Monday.
With a 4-1 vote Monday, April 14, CSD directors approved a resolution that bars current board members from holding or even seeking public office with an outside governmental agency. The measure now forces CSD board member Jim Candelaria to chose whether to complete the last half of his four-year term on the board or continue his campaign in the county commissioner’s race.
“It’s childish,” Candelaria said.
Candelaria received the GOP nod from county delegates as the Republican Party’s top candidate for Montezuma County commissioner. If elected commissioner, Candelaria said his top priorities would be to invite industry and development to the community, support tax contributors and create needed infrastructure improvements.
Candelaria is slated to face challengers James Lambert, who petitioned onto the GOP primary ballot, and William Utrup, an unaffiliated candidate. Donnie Tanner dropped his campaign after losing the local GOP delegate election.
The three candidates are seeking to fill Montezuma County Commissioner Steve Chappell’s post, which expires later this year.
On Tuesday, Candelaria said he has sought legal advice on how to proceed, and if given an ultimatum, he would continue his campaign as county commissioner.
“I would fully support all three challengers to the Cortez Sanitation District board, and I would definitely continue my race for county commissioner,” Candelaria said.
The resolution to change CSD’s rules and regulations states a director holding another public office “may inhibit” the board member’s “time and attention” and “may lead” to conflicts of interest.
Candelaria, the lone opposition to the resolution, described it as arbitrary, and asked board members Monday of their intent and why he wasn’t consulted regarding the new directive.
CSD director John Stramel said he initiated discussions with Durango attorney Jeff Robbins to examine the issue, citing he wanted board members to remain focused on CSD matters.
“This (board) takes a lot of time and dedication,” Stramel said.
CSD president Dave Waters said he also contacted Robbins.
“If you continue to run (for commissioner), then you would have to give up your (board) seat,” Waters told Candelaria.
CSD director David Kimble said he thought the measure was needed in order to avoid any conflict of interest. CSD director Harold Foster agreed, but he hesitated briefly before ultimately voting in favor of the resolution.
Shocked to discover the resolution was being considered, Candelaria said Tuesday that he questions if CSD board members met privately to discuss and decide the issue prior to Monday’s meeting.
If so, Candelaria said the board members may have violated Colorado open meeting laws. Candelaria added it appears the resolution was passed as an attempt by current CSD board members to maintain control over board decisions.
“That’s an injustice to the constituents that they serve,” Candelaria said.
The new resolution also forces board members to relinquish their post if they refuse to subscribe to an oath of office, convicted of a felony, submits a written resignation, ceases to be qualified, fails to attend three consecutive meetings without board approval or dies. The resolution took effect Tuesday, April 15.
Robbins could not be reached for comment as of press time.