Guest Column: Tusayan Town Council needs transparency in decision-making
In response to the town of Tusayan (town) open mic incidents, the referendum on the town’s takeover of floodplain administration, a recent lawsuit filed against the town by Coconino County and this mayor’s comments in Grand Canyon News this week.
At some point, some members of the Tusayan town council, town staff along with Stilo (Development Group) may try to spin that a referendum to send the town’s decision to takeover floodplain administration to the ballot as an effort to stop new housing development. That would be untrue. The town has handled an array of development items improperly, including permitting development — both commercial and residential — to proceed without formal floodplain review. How can they expect to set standards or enforce building/development when, it seems, they think they can act and do about whatever/however they please? This is a matter that affects the safety of our town and all of us who live here — whether you own property or not. Because the town ignored the referendum and continued to permit development without review by the legal floodplain administrator, Coconino County has now filed a lawsuit. This is the result of the town ignoring the law.
Anyone who has listened to the Tusayan off mic recordings knows Stilo’s Tom DePaolo suggested lying about a federal employee if she became a problem for them. With my opposition, of their very large scale plans, can you imagine what else Tom has thought of, or has, fabricated about me and my family? I am sure many of you have heard their false statements (and) the crazy things that he and his group spread. The open mic comments had more false statements from Tom, and some members of council, about me. Thankfully Tom’s tall tales are easily disproved and I will aggressively do so if Tom’s efforts go beyond his open mic discussions with some members of the town council. And yet, these councilmembers used their own open mic comments as an excuse to vote against my application to serve as the missing member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. A commission that has had a vacancy for many months and which most of the commission had asked me to please apply for.
With these very serious transparency issues for the town, why have they become less transparent? No more live steaming and only emailing out some agendas, of many, since. Not that the town had to, but it became its customary practice and what the public expected. To me, this all helps create more of an appearance that the town does have plenty to hide.
With most public entities it seems that staff helps keep the proper legal direction for the entity. I do not feel this is the case with Eric Duthie, the current town manager. We provided numerous written comments and legitimate questions in the public meetings leading up to the adoption of the ordinance to take over floodplain management. We hired a well-regarded, registered floodplain engineer to advise on these matters. Eric seemed intent to plow ahead and suggested the town adopt the ordinance without any regard for the questions and concerns we raised. And then the town doubled-down on its decision to move forward — no matter the cost — when it behaved as though it were the floodplain administrator when it had no legal authority to do so after the referendum was filed.
All residents of a town should feel represented by their council, whether they agree or not. This is not the case with the current bully behavior by the town manager and a majority of town council. Thankfully some new and independent voices have recently been elected to the town council. And more importantly, the open mic recordings have moved more in the community to action.
A town (a public entity) should be about doing things right. Even with recent discoveries, three council members still are behaving as if they have done nothing wrong. Doing things right, on its own development plans and any filed by anyone else, is something that many residents are still waiting to see the town or Stilo TRULY DO.
In reference to the Tom DePaola statement regarding off mic recordings between him and town of Tusayan councilmembers, he later said these statements were a bad joke.