Economic Development director resigns

The Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership tried to fire its director, lost a board member and almost forced the removal of Chairman Les Hampton at an emergency meeting called Thursday night.

EDP Director Wally Ralston resigned after it was made clear half the board members wanted to terminate him.

A motion was made to discuss his employment, which Ralston objected to, saying he was entitled to legal

representation.

"I have a right to legal representation if you're discussing my termination," Ralston angrily told the board.

Hampton decided the board would proceed with or without Ralston's attorney.

"You go get your attorney, we're going to move ahead," he told Ralston.

Ralston immediately distributed letters of resignation he had previously prepared and had in his briefcase.

"This is what you guys really want, this is what you're going to get," Ralston said. "I have a right to an attorney."

Before discussing Ralston's position with the EDP, Hampton's position as chairman of the board was questioned. He retained the chairmanship by one vote.

Ken Recker, president of First National Bank of the Rockies, motioned to remove Hampton as the chairman of the board.

Recker said he wanted Hampton removed because of Hampton's ongoing refusal to follow the EDP's bylaws that call for directors to be elected by the partnership's members.

According to Recker, only one of the seated directors has been appointed by the membership.

The final vote was four to three in favor of retaining Hampton. Hampton himself, as chairman of the board, asked each member whether they wanted him to continue to serve.

Hampton later offered to resign his position, but was asked by board members not to, and was told a difference in personalities between him and Ralston had made board service difficult, but that situation was resolved when Ralston resigned.

Once the vote to remove Hampton was tallied, Recker immediately resigned his seat.

"I think there's oil and water here and I don't believe in the mix," he said.

The vote though, wasn't necessarily a true representation of the board and was in violation of the EDP's bylaws. Ex-officio member, City Manager Jim Ferree, was not allowed to vote on the motion. There is no provision in the EDP's bylaws that excludes ex-officio board members from voting. In fact, one section that outlines the executive director's responsibility qualifies that position specifically as a "non-voting," ex-officio member. Additionally, the bylaws state that a quorum is comprised of "a majority of the directors (board members) including ex-officio members."

Craig City Council member Bill Johnston was also not allowed to vote because he was also considered an ex-officio member, but, according to the bylaws, the group is only allowed two ex-officio members -- one representing the city of Craig and the other representing Moffat County. Ferree represented the city as a voting member and took over as the city's ex-officio representative to allow Johnston to take the seat as a voting member.

Board members recognized the ambiguity of the bylaws during the executive session and agreed to re-write the bylaws to alleviate contradictions.

"Our bylaws are ambiguous as to who can and cannot vote," board member Jerry Thompson said. "I'd like to review and revise the bylaws so they're stated clearly."

The discussion about Ralston's employment was held during an executive session, one half hour into which Recker returned and asked the board to not accept his resignation and at which time the committee was reportedly tangled in a tie vote.

Recker, who had asked the board to delay his resignation until this morning, was not allowed back onto the board.

A vote was reportedly taken in executive session, something the state open meetings law forbids. Because it was held in executive session, it is not clear whether all the members entitled to vote were given the opportunity to vote.

In addition, a Craig Daily Press representative was the only person asked to leave the room. Two community members attending the meeting out of interest, but who were not voting members, were allowed to stay and comment.

In the end, a vote was not necessary. Ralston resigned.

"I didn't want to be the cause of any more divisiveness," Ralston said. "The board was hopelessly deadlocked on several issues and I was one of those."

Ralston's resignation becomes effective March 15, exactly 11 months after he was hired.

"Economic development is very important in Moffat County and it's important enough that it should override the wishes of any particular person," he said.

Ralston expects his next 60 days to be productive.

"Without me being under the gun, that gun being the divisiveness between the business community and the political community, I think I can be more helpful," he said.

Ralston said he's disappointed but will be happy to put this all behind him.

"In terms of me and my wife, I think we need to get this behind me," he said. "This has been a very stressful time for us. I tried to do the best I could for the community, be we're at opposite ends of what we want."

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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