During discussion about the motion to repeal Salida City Council’s approval of the Salida Crossings Planned Development, Councilman Harald Kasper’s comments sparked reactions from some attendees at the June 5 council meeting.
Kasper said he is “grateful that our Constitution gives us the right to petition” and congratulated the petition signers for “getting involved.”
Although former city councilman Hal Brown did not attend the meeting, Kasper directed comments to Brown and former mayor Jim LiVecchi, who jointly filed the referendum petition that forced city council to reconsider its approval of Salida Crossings:
“While you are certainly entitled to your dislike of four-story buildings and your relative indifference to our housing crisis, the process of your opposition pains me. Not having participated in any but the first of seven public meetings in the last half year, you certainly didn’t make any sincere effort to find common ground.”
As Kasper was speaking, salida resident Monika Griesenbeck said, “I’m getting out of here. This is insulting.” As she stood and walked out, salida resident Steve Borbas and several other attendees followed her.
Kasper continued to address Brown and LiVecchi, saying Brown’s letter to the editor “was an insult to a five-month process” and everyone involved in that process, from the developer to city staff and city council.
Kasper cited Section 16-7-60 of the Salida Municipal Code, which “allows approval of height and density above standard. This process is called a ‘planned development,’ and it provides a legal pathway for city and developers to come together and create a mutual, beneficial solution.”
When Kasper mentioned that LiVecchi’s statements to The Mountain Mail clashed with the advice of the affordable housing taskforce that LiVecchi himself organized, Councilman Rusty Granzella asked Mayor P.T. Wood for a point of order.
“Our codes do say that the public has to address us as a council, and I think council should address the community as a group,” said Granzella.
“I would agree,” said Mayor Wood.
At that point, Councilman Kasper asked the citizens of Salida to “seek out the facts, collect your information with diligence and consider the process that brought us here … and please go to vote.”
According to multiple witnesses, local resident Steve Tafoya got angry during Kasper’s comments and called the councilman a “son of a bitch.”
At that point, Salida Police Sgt. Nick Tolsma intervened. Tolsma said he asked Tafoya not to be disruptive and told him he would be asked to leave the meeting if his disruptive behavior continued. Tolsma also called for backup and was soon joined by two additional Salida police officers.
Tafoya later told Tolsma that he would be filing a complaint against the sergeant, but the recent incident is not the first time that Tafoya has been at odds with the city of Salida and its police department.
Public records obtained through a Colorado Open Records Act request include an Aug. 10, 2012, email from former deputy city clerk Audrey Gilpin to Salida Police Chief Terry Clark describing a confrontation initiated by Tafoya.
“Steve Tafoya was requesting public records. … I told him I’d have to get with Annabelle and Sue to get an estimate. … He got so mad, stating, ‘You’re required to give me an estimate.’ I asked him to please calm down. That’s when he threw a pen back on the counter and said, ‘You know what, Audrey, you just don’t know how to do your job.’”
An email from former city administrator Dara McDonald to Chief Clark dated Jan. 3, 2013, reveals that Tafoya “became angry and irrational with Audrey and stormed out (again).”
The same day, MacDonald asked city employees to call dispatch and request a police officer be sent to City Hall whenever Tafoya entered the building because “his behavior is of concern to me, and I want all of you to feel comfortable alerting police to his presence in the building.”
Tafoya filed a formal complaint against MacDonald, former city attorney Karl Hanlon, Clark, Gilpin and CIRSA attorney Steven Dawes on May 19, 2014.
Former mayor Jim Dickson responded to that complaint May 30, 2014. “Regarding your first complaint relative to the City of Salida’s current requirement that a police presence be maintained when you enter the administrative offices:
“You have lost your temper in City Hall on multiple occasions, raising your voice, pointing fingers and making other intimidating gestures. As a result Dara MacDonald has instructed the staff in City Hall to call for a police presence whenever you enter City Hall.
“She has further directed that you be treated respectfully and allowed to conduct your business; however, intimidation and disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated.”
Related stories: https://arkvalleyvoice.com/attorney-educates-former-mayor-about-open-meetings/