Fraser Rec District board asked by lawyer to address potential conflicts of interest
July 3, 2008
The controversy over the proposed recreation center to be built by the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District (FVMRD) has ratcheted up another notch, now involving attorneys and accusations of conflicts of interest.
On Wednesday, July 2, a letter from Winter Park attorney Mark Rudis was hand delivered to the members of the FVMRD board of directors. It requests the directors provide information about whether they have any “direct conflicts of interest” between their decisions about the recreation center and “their personal financial interests.”
“Preliminarily, we request each director to provide a statement of where his or her financial interests conflict with the FVMRD financial interests relevant to the Grand Park development and the proposed recreation center, or to provide a statement that no conflict of interest exists,” Rudis’ letter states.
In the letter, Rudis referred to Colorado Revised Statutes Title 24, Article 18, which deals with the code of ethics for elected officials, defining what is and is not a conflict of interest.
Rudis said he was hired by “a group within the constituency of the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District” to “inquire of and to investigate apparent conflicts of interest of the FVMRD directors with their personal financial interests.”
During a telephone interview, Rudis identified district resident Pat Rupert as the leader of the group that had hired him. Rupert reportedly hand-delivered the letter to the directors on Wednesday.
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In the letter, the directors were asked to mail their written responses to Rupert by July 9.
If there is evidence of a “self-serving conflict of interest” by a recreation district director, Rudis said a request will be made for that director’s resignation.
“Or we could potentially file a lawsuit,” he said.
Rudis specifically mentioned Elizabeth Sands, who is the FVMRD’s secretary. He said she reportedly is an employee who works for Grand Park developer Clark Lipscomb.
In response to this accusation, Sands freely admitted in a telephone interview that she works for Cornerstone Holdings LLC, which is involved in the development of Grand Park.
“I started with Cornerstone last November,” she said. “I’m just involved with real estate and I have nothing to do with the development.”
Sands said she had publicly disclosed her employment by Cornerstone, but denied any conflict of interest while serving as an FVMRD director.
“I recused myself from any vote involving Grand Park,” she said. “I’ve also signed affidavits with the recreation district’s attorney, who will be posting them with the Secretary of State’s office.”
Sands further stated that FVMRD attorney Owen Oliver has already been contacted about the letter. She said he is preparing a response that would be delivered on or before the July 9 deadline requested by Rudis.
The controversy over the proposed recreation center has been ongoing during the past few months. The construction of a recreation center was part of a $19.5 million bond approved by district voters during last November’s election.
Part of the controversy was over the election itself, which involved mail-in ballots and accusations of voter fraud.
In addition, the center is supposed to be built upon five acres of land donated by Lipscomb. However, many residents objected when it was learned Lipscomb had not yet deeded the land to the district and was pressing for the center to be named after Grand Park.
Other controversy arose when it was alleged that the recreation center would be built adjacent to a proposed Marriott Hotel whose guests supposedly would be granted access to the rec center.