At the Dec. 3 Delta City Council meeting, Delta resident Cynthia Hansen accused Delta Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Jay Stooksberry and Commissioner Ryan Crick of misconduct and malfeasance, and claimed that Councilman Nathan Clay had a conflict of interest in council discussions on Delta County Economic Development (DCED).
As an action to go with her claims, Hansen requested the removal of Stooksberry and Crick from the planning commission and announced that she would start a petition to ban Clay from voting on DCED related agenda items.
The accusations of misconduct and malfeasance toward Stooksberry and Crick were in regards to two separate letters to the editor in the Delta County Independent, one from each. In their respective letters, Stooksberry and Crick questioned why county resident Scott Schaible frequently involves himself in Delta City Council meetings when he lives outside of Delta’s city limits. In both letters, statements are made that, according to Hansen, go against the first amendment — free speech — and suggest that Schaible should have less of a right to speak at city council meetings than people who live within city limits.
Schaible later told the press that he hadn’t known Hansen was going to make accusations at the meeting, nor did he know that he would be used as leverage for Hansen’s case against Stooksberry and Crick.
Hansen requested that Stooksberry and Crick, due to their alleged misconduct and malfeasance in infracting the first amendment, both be removed from the Delta Planning Commission. Hansen provided examples from each letter to the editor that she claimed violated the amendment of free speech.
In the main example, Hansen referenced from Stooksberry’s letter, dated Dec. 26, 2018 and titled, “Schaible’s claims are laughable,” Stooksberry wrote, “Why does the mayor continue to grant special access and privilege to non-constituents like Mr. Schaible, as opposed to his actual constituents?”
Hansen pointed out that the letter from Crick was published four weeks later, on Jan. 23 and that in his letter, titled, “What’s motivating Scott Schaible?” Crick wrote, “I for one am ready to have his opinions kept out of OUR city politics.”
Hansen claimed in front of the council that Stooksberry and Crick’s letters endorsed banning someone who had a right to be present. “Their ideology stated in both letters to the editor that Scott Schaible should be banned and censored at all City of Delta Council meetings and work sessions, are unconstitutional in all possible ways,” Hansen said. “These are public meetings and anyone can attend them and it flies in the face of any freedom that I have to enter this city council chamber.”
Despite Hansen’s claim, neither letter directly states that an action should be taken by any party to prohibit Schaible from coming to council meetings. Both letters in their entirety are available for viewing on the DCI’s website, at deltacountyindependent.com.
Crick’s letter overall claims that Schaible is manipulative in the meetings and that he tries to sway decisions for Delta when he doesn’t live there, have a business there, or have any known connection to the City of Delta.
Stooksberry wrote in his letter that Schaible is “mean spirited” and insults anyone “who dares to disagree with him.” Stooksberry claims that he therefore found it “hilarious” that Schaible accused Stooksberry of trying to suppress the voice of the people in a previously written letter to the editor from Dec. 19, titled, “Accusations of ‘ex-parte communication’ aren’t fair.”
On the subject of conflict of interest, Hansen’s claim of Clay’s conflict referenced the discussions on economic development the city council will have in the near future, in which they will talk about putting money into Delta County Economic Development (DCED). Clay’s boss is Amy Crick, the treasurer for DCED. Due to Clay’s connection to DCED, Hansen requested that Clay recuse himself from any votes regarding DCED in the future, or risk additional conflicts of interest.
Amy Crick is Clay’s supervisor at the First Colorado National Bank, while she is the treasurer of DCED on the side, according to Clay. Therefore, he has no conflict of interest in matters involving DCED because his job at the bank is not related to DCED.
Clay said he was certain that his conflict is a non-disqualifying one, unless hoping to improve the entire economy of Delta County while working at a financial institution is a disqualifying conflict.
Clay additionally mentioned that he was already on the City Council at the time that he accepted his position at the bank and that Amy Crick had taken her current position with DCED after Clay had “been employed for some time.” Clay stated that he has never, nor will he ever, received any benefits from the bank for his place with the City Council and that Amy Crick’s place with DCED is a volunteer position.
Clay said that, as indirect as his workplace’s connection with DCED is, he’s certain it wouldn’t be a real conflict of interest. “Taking into consideration the close-knit nature of the community in which we live, I don’t believe that any one resident could avoid being entirely without conflict,” Clay said. As an example, he asked the rhetorical question, “Is my employment at the bank more of a conflict of interest than a council member mowing highway grass for Delta County?” The question referenced the common occurrence when the City Council must make decisions regarding the city’s public works department.
Hansen told the council she wanted to see clarification on the donations to the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce (DACC) and DCED. “I strongly oppose any funding of my tax money going to the Chamber or DCED. I have looked over their websites and found nothing in the way of progress toward economic development or commerce from either organization.”
Hansen accused Stooksberry further for alleged misuse of city property because, according to Hansen, Stooksberry owned CB’s Tavern in Delta while helping with the design of the DACC website, and CB’s Tavern is now a featured photo on the DACC’s website.
Clay later pointed out in an email that Hansen’s claim was invalid because businesses buy into their town’s chamber of commerce for an opportunity of networking. CB’s Tavern was on the Chamber’s website because it was part of that network. Other businesses are featured on the site as well.
The day after the meeting, Hansen made additional accusations against Clay. One accusation was a second conflict of interest, in which the City Council appoints the Planning Commission. Clay’s vote helped elect Ryan Crick, the husband of Amy Crick, Clay’s boss, Hansen said.
The second accusation was that Clay allegedly called Hansen an “old lady,” therefore discriminating against her. Later, Hansen detailed what she meant.
Later in the meeting, during a discussion of the budget that had nothing to do with Hansen, Councilman Gerald Roberts mentioned a hypothetical “little old lady” on a fixed income to make an argument against raising taxpayer expenses by adding an extra employee at the golf course.
“The little old lady that’s living on $600 a month, that doesn’t increase her quality of life very much,” Roberts said.
In response, Clay said, “No, but the golf course really isn’t for her either, is it? I mean, it’s for a different type of individual.” When Roberts made another reference to the hypothetical old lady a short time later to continue his argument against rate hikes, Clay said one rate hike, being the water processing plant, couldn’t be controlled. “We can’t do anything about that. The little old lady can’t do anything about the processing plant that they’re going to build.”
The last comment was the one Hansen claimed was in reference to her. “At the City Council meeting on Dec. 3, 2019, during an interchange between Councilmembers Roberts and Clay, Mr. Clay made the statement about ‘Some Old Lady,’” Hansen wrote to the mayor and other city staff in a letter of claims. “That was in reference to me. Of course we all know that discrimination is illegal, on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or age.”
Hansen went on to say that, in the case that Clay’s comment wasn’t in reference to her, it was still hate speech. “Please take all necessary actions to stop this abuse,” Hansen said.
Schaible said he’d spoken with Hansen on the matter of Clay’s alleged conflict of interest before, and that he’d mentioned the conflict to Clay himself in an email on Nov. 21. He did not agree with Hansen’s accusations of discrimination or hate speech against Clay. The only issue he was planning on addressing in the near future was Clay’s conflict of interest.
“I believe Cynthia made a transgression when she accused him of hate speech,” Schaible said.
Hansen said she is requesting past executive session minutes to support her claims, and that she will request that all future executive session minutes will be available as long as the council still has any of its current elected officials.
More information will be released as it becomes available.