Rangely council splits vote on judge

RANGELY | Tuesday the Rangely Town Council reappointed a variety of town positions and addressed conflict of interest concerns surrounding the reappointment of Municipal Judge Karen Wilczek, wife of Police Chief Vince Wilczek. Mayor Andy Shaffer also responded to a recent controversy regarding CNCC President Ron Granger’s performance.
Appointment of Municipal Judge
Current Town Judge Karen Wilczek provided a letter to the council and personally addressed concerns that her marriage to the Rangely Police Chief could present a conflict of interest. In her letter Wilczek stated that any cases which may be a conflict are delegated to back-up Judge Teresa Sims. “I have and will continue to recuse myself when any potential or perceived conflicts of interest arise,” she said. In her letter Wilczek defined a conflict of interest saying, “a conflict might be perceived if the police chief made an arrest or issued a summons for a violation that he had investigated and/or alleged.” She also said that the bulk of her cases are code violations from animal control or code enforcement.
Town Attorney Dan Wilson also provided a letter on the subject stating he would recommend Wilczek be reappointed, “despite the conflict issue.” Wilson stated that Wilczek rarely has to recuse herself and that, “Each time, she did so without the need of the defendant making the point, to Karen’s credit.”
Councilman Andy Key said that he believes that any citation brought by any of the Rangely Police Department presents a conflict of interest, as those officers are employees of Wilczek’s husband. Wilczek said that the former town attorney believed that it was not a problem as long as people felt she was unbiased. She also said that the town attorney negotiates plea deals and, “Usually it’s almost cast in stone.” She said she only deviates when “it’s in the person’s best interest.”
According to Wilczek, the Municipal Court can sentence a maximum 90 days in jail and $300 fine, so any matters that might require more than that will be moved up to higher court. She also mentioned that the municipal court is not a court of record, meaning there are no tape or video recordings of the sessions.
Key asked Wilczek if she has any “bias against OHVs and ATVs.” Wilczek said she sees some daily abuse of the current statue which was designed to allow people to get access to BLM land.
Councilman Rich Garner said the appearance of impropriety or conflict is not evidence of that occurring and that he does not believe there are currently any issues.
Wilczek was reappointed with a 4-1 vote with Key as the only no.
Wilczek was first appointed municipal judge in 2006 and is also the court clerk for the Rio Blanco Associate Court.
Appointment of Town Clerk and Attorney
The council reappointed Dan Wilson as the Town Attorney. Andy Key was the only “nay” vote on the appointment, saying he was concerned about the “prosecution of citizens.” Wilson received three “yea” votes. Luke Geer abstained.
Key nominated Lisa Piering to continue as Town Clerk and Treasurer with a ringing endorsement saying she does great work and is always professional.
Council Declares Support for CNCC President
Last month CNCC’s Moffat County Affiliated Junior College District Board of Control entertained a motion of ‘No Confidence’ in CNCC President Ron Granger. The motion failed on a 3-2 vote. The vote followed a letter from Colorado Community College System President Nancy McCallin which reminded the board they (the board) have no employees and their power is limited to levying and distributing taxes. McCallin’s letter followed a proposal by the Board of Control which would have made Granger more accountable to that board. In response to the failed motion and press coverage that followed Rangely Mayor Andy Shaffer provided a letter to McCallin in support of President Granger and his work at CNCC.
“Since President Granger came to Rangely, we have seen new zeal and heartfelt devotion to establishing CNCC’s programs and innovative, quality education opportunities.” The letter continued on to say, “We have been playing close attention since President Granger arrived and we want to commend his leadership and thank him for his eager involvement in our community.”
Town Updates
Council member Andy Key updated the board on what’s going on with the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado. Key said the Dinosaur National Monument Welcome Center visits are up from this time last year. AGNC recently decided to support the Fair District Initiative. In previous discussions the council was concerned that the rules which regulate gifting to public officials would not apply to judges appointed in the redistricting process. The initiative has since added in language to hold those judges to the same standard.
Don Reed with the utilities department said they are looking into developing the capability to complete state-mandated water testing in-house to “save a great deal of money.” Reed also addressed questions about his department considering the use of chemicals to help with the White River algae problem. According to Reed, the company ATS would like to see Rangely participate in a pilot program to study their new chemicals which may treat the algae and reduce all total organic carbon in the water. Town Manager Peter Brixius said the Meeker Town Council would like to hold a joint meeting on June 14. He also said the town is working on an intergovernmental agreement with the county building department to share building inspectors.
The council approved a resolution increasing the town’s participation level in the Main Street Program. The new level will provide more access to grant funding and specialized support services.
The board unanimously approved appointing Keely Winger to the RDA/RDC boards.