Following the reading of a letter of resignation from board president Mike Alley from the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, CDC board members considered the future of the community grant writer.
Alley was the CDC board president since the organization’s inception in early 2010. Prior to that, Alley served on the board of the Archuleta Economic Development Association (precursor to the CDC).
Citing that since La Plata Electric Association was not a paying board member and that CDC bylaws stipulate that board members pay CDC membership and so Alley’s position on the board was in violation of that rule. However, Alley’s letter also stated that with his own health issues, as well as controversy surrounding the CDC earlier this year, he felt it was time for him to step down as board president.
The resignation apparently took the board by surprise. At times, both vice-president (and Pagosa Springs mayor) Ross Aragon and newly-seated board member (and county commissioner) Michael Whiting attempted to run the meeting in Alley’s absence, leading to some confusion among board members.
Prior to the regularly scheduled CDC board meeting, an executive session had been noticed to deal with personnel matters (as allowed in the Colorado Open Meetings statute) regarding the position of the community grant writer. However, Mary Tighe, the employee for which the executive session had been called, requested that the meeting be open to the public.
By statute, executive sessions regarding personnel matters are closed only if the subject of discussion requests closure.
When asked if she had anything to say, Tighe responded, “I’d like to listen because I’m surprised that there’s another review.”
That left Whiting to lead the discussion. Stating that while he liked Tighe personally, “I have a strong sense going forward that we need a different person in the job.”
Whiting added that he did not feel the CDC had been given due diligence in the selection process for community grant writer.
“The selection process was foreshortened by Steve Vassallo and then Steve hired Mary,” Whiting added. Stating that he did not believe Tighe was hired with a sufficient skill set for the job and that she had not developed adequate skills during her tenure, Whiting said that by keeping Tighe in her position, “It’s just not going to get us there.”
Pagosa Springs Town Manager David Mitchem answered a question as to why the Town Tourism Committee had pulled its funding from the community grant writer position.
Originally, the CDC, Pagosa Springs Town Council, the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners and the TTC funded the community grant writer position to the tune of $9,000 each.
“The TTC, at one or several of their meetings, has expressed dissatisfaction with the grant writing process,” Mitchem said, adding that it was for that reason the TTC had decided to pull its funding.
Rich Lindblad defended Tighe’s performance, stating that direction under Vassallo had been insufficient and that the position shifted from community grant writer to Vassallo’s personal assistant.
“In five months, not one grant was addressed,” Lindblad said.
Following Vassallo’s resignation, Lindblad was asked to supervise Tighe. Since then, according to Lindblad, three grants had been written (all geothermal related) but stated that he felt no one person was capable of writing every grant. Citing a grant he had written with Tighe and Ken Vickerstaff, Lindblad said, “Everybody was on the learning curve, none of us knew what we were doing. We’re stepping into new stuff that we’ve never addressed before. It’s less about the individual and more about the process.”
“I disagree that one person can’t write grants for the community,” he said. “I just don’t think Mary has the narrative skills. If the county has to rewrite the narrative part, then we’re (the county) doing the work.”
What followed was a discussion regarding Tighe’s contract. Apparently, no copy of a signed contract was to be found following Vassallo’s resignation — and Tighe herself did not possess a copy of the signed contract.
When asked by SUN staff if she had asked for a copy of the signed contract, Tighe responded that she had asked Vassallo several times for a copy but was not given a response. When asked if she had made an appeal to the board for a copy, Tighe did not respond.
CDC and Archuleta County attorney Todd Starr stated that, while he had examined and approved the contract, he did not have a copy of the signed contract. However, Starr stated that his recollection of the contract’s language would allow the board to dismissTighe with no recourse.
“There’s no contractual obligation and no liability other than unemployment liability,” Starr said. “In my opinion, she’s an at-will employee.”
After Tighe made a claim that she’d written seven successful grants, Aragon weighed in on Tighe’s personal style.
“I’ve heard that it’s been very contentious, the comments on the street, the assessment that has been made ... people are overwhelmed with your inconsideration with people’s time,” Aragon said. “From what I’ve heard, it’s been adversarial, these complaints I’ve heard from other people.”
“There were business people that felt that you might be a liability,” Aragon concluded.
A motion was made by board member Marion Francis to retain Tighe through October (the end of her contract) but to end the contract at that point; board member Bill Kinsley provided a second.
“I can’t support paying Mary through October,” Whiting said, adding, “I’m opposed to a vote of no confidence but then paying her through October.”
In the end, Whiting and Aragon voted “nay” to kill the motion.
With the board at a stalemate, Tighe’s position was secure — for the moment. In fact, later in the meeting, Tighe presented information on a geothermal grant that is to go out tomorrow. Nevertheless, the CDC board scheduled a special meeting for today, seeking to settle the matter once and for all. If board member Morgan Murri is able to attend telephonically, his vote would be the deciding vote in the matter.