Two commissioners: we didn’t direct attorney to draft letter
Two members of the Grand County Board of Commissioners say their direction to the county attorney regarding the revaluation of Henderson Mine and Mill at the end of their April 19 meeting did not indicate that they were seeking to abrogate their original decision on the matter.
During that board meeting, citizen Peter Ralph raised concerns including that the revaluation was moot because mine owner Freeport-McMoRan had submitted its final request too late.
In March, the board approved a change in the mine’s property tax valuation, which is based on its production, from a five-year average to a three-year average.
After hearing Ralph’s concerns, the board seemed to direct County Attorney Alan Hassler to draft a letter to Freeport-McMoRan stating that it believed the revaluation wasn’t valid because of the timing issue.
During the meeting, Commissioner Jane Tollett said “it was worth a try” to send a letter to Freeport-McMoRan.
“I’d love it if we could work together on this to figure out a response to say ‘hey, we did screw up,’” said Commissioner Merrit Linke.
The board then directed Hassler and Ralph to meet.
“I think we need to do it as soon as possible,” Linke said.
“You two get together,” Commissioner Kris Manguso said.
“And draft a letter,” Linke added.
Speaking to the Sky-Hi News on April 28, Tollett said the board had not in fact directed Hassler to draft such a letter with Ralph.
“We stayed the course,” Tollett said. “We stayed with our decision.”
Linke said it was “partially correct” to say the board instructed Hassler to draft the letter.
“We did ask Mr. Ralph if he’d be willing to work with Mr. Hassler on a letter that articulates the points that Mr. Ralph was bringing up, because he did seem to have some valid arguments, and he was very sure of his conviction and was very sure that he was correct,” Linke said.
Linke said the board only intended for Hassler and Ralph to discuss the matter further.
Hassler said he also felt the board had never decided to seek the reversal of its original revaluation.
The board issued a press release around 5 p.m. on April 21 saying it stood behind its original decision.
The staff meeting was not noticed as a normal public meeting, though it was open to the public.
Manguso declined to comment on the meeting.
According to state law, any meeting in which the board takes formal action must be properly noticed and minuted, which the staff meeting was not.
Hassler declined to comment further, saying the board had not instructed him to speak with the press.
Linke said that, during the staff meeting, the board had only directed Hassler again to meet with Ralph.
Ralph said he received a phone call from Hassler on their scheduled meeting date in which Hassler said the commissioners “weren’t ready to send a letter” but that he would like Ralph to meet with him anyway to discuss legal issues surrounding the revaluation.
“I said I felt that I’d been given an opportunity to explain my views during the public meeting on Tuesday, and I was not interested in having private meetings on this,” Ralph said.
Ralph and Hassler never met, though Linke said it was Hassler’s opinion that the original decision was valid.
“We did investigate it, and I think that’s responsible government, which is to listen to new information when it comes forth and to take it seriously,” Linke said.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.
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