Talking back

Dinosaur mayor returns fire at critics attempting to oust her from office

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Freda Powell, the embattled Dinosaur town mayor, fired back Tuesday at critics -- a contingent of town residents attempting to oust her from public office.

"Everything they accuse me of is incorrect," said Powell, who was elected in April by earning 74 of 78 votes. "I have to ask myself, is what they're doing really for the betterment of the community?"

Since September, some town residents have been trying to submit a recall petition against Powell. For the second time, the petition was rejected because it failed to meet state standards.

The recall petition has alleged that Powell is not a property owner in Dinosaur, violated the Hatch Act -- a requirement for federal employees -- and has failed to provide police protection to the small town 90 miles west of Craig.

Powell, who has contended throughout her tenure that she has done nothing to warrant the recall, said the continued efforts by opponents are costing the town money. Money, she said, that could be used for more pressing town needs.

"Every time they do this, it costs the city money," she said, citing that submitted petitions have to be reviewed by the town attorney. "That's money that can go into police protection. That's money that can be going back into the town.

"So, again I ask, is what they're doing really the best thing for Dinosaur? No, and none of these people have even come and talked to me face to face."

The allegations against her are false, Powell said.

"These are just bogus," she said.

The Hatch Act, a federal law enacted in 1939, is a provision prohibiting federal employees or civil servants from engaging in partisan political activity. Over the years, it has been broadened to its current format, which grants federal employees greater latitude in the political process.

It allows federal employees -- Powell is a farm loan officer for the federal government -- to be a candidate in an election in which none of the candidates represent a political party. She said the Dinosaur mayoral race met that provision.

They also contend that she is not a property owner in Dinosaur. Again, Powell said they are wrong and that she does live in and own property in the town. Nonetheless, owning property is not a requirement in Dinosaur for public office, the mayor said.

As for the lack of police protection, Powell said problems with town law enforcement existed before her tenure.

Town officials fired Dinosaur marshal Russell "Wayne" Eller in June after allegations surfaced that he lied on his resume, a contention that Eller denies. Before Eller was hired, the town of about 320 people had been without a marshal since August 2005.

"There were problems before I came," Powell said.

She said the town has entered into negotiations with the Moffat County Sheriff's Office, a branch that has been providing part-time police protection, to provide full-time service in Dinosaur.

On Thursday, Dinosaur town clerk Tamara Long said she reviewed language from the proposed recall petition. She said the petition was reviewed ahead of schedule.

Like an earlier submittal, Long said she found errors in the latest recall petition, and that it didn't meet Colorado Revised Statutes. Language in the petition must meet state standards before it is circulated to residents, Long said.

Sharon Gehring, a town resident for the past year, has spearheaded the recall effort.

"She's just not doing it the way it says to in the C.R.S.," Long said.

Despite the obstacles, Gehring said she isn't closing the book on recalling Powell. She said she's more determined than ever to get the recall petition approved and put it before the public.

"We're still trying to improve it and send it back in," said Gehring, who's now in the midst of searching for an attorney to review her draft of the petition before again submitting it to city officials.

Quitting her push to recall the mayor isn't an option, she said.

"I don't think I can do it," Gehring said. "I feel I have to keep going. ... I am strongly against her being in (office)."

Gehring said more than 30 people signed previous drafts of the petition, and that she thinks many will re-sign once the language is approved.

Powell said fruitless efforts such as the proposed recall petition hurt Dinosaur's reputation, and foster a negative image.

"Everybody just laughs ... oh, Dinosaur is at it again," she said. "The Hatfields and the McCoys. ... We can never grow, and it's because of actions like this."

The mayor said she has no intentions of stepping down.

"I'm going on and will continue to work for the town," she said. "If there is a recall, we'll go from there."

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