County interference blamed for mass resignation of Moffat County Local Marketing District board members
December 7, 2017
CRAIG — Four of the seven members of the Moffat County Local Marketing District Board resigned Thursday, Dec. 7, citing political interference from Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe as the reason behind their decisions.
"Frank Moe, he set back volunteers in this community for years. In his mind, his efforts might be completely open and honest, but the way he was pressuring was not helpful," said resigning board member Roger Richmond, who was originally appointed to the board by the city of Craig to serve until July 2019. Richmond is a land manager for Southwestern Energy.
The seven members of the LMD board are responsible for managing money raised from a 4-percent lodging tax approved by voters in 2015 through the creation of a Local Marketing District.
City appointee Victor Updike and county appointees Dave DeRose and Dave Fleming also tendered their resignations soon after learning Moe had sent a letter, on county letterhead, requesting DeRose's resignation. Updike is a local business owner, Fleming is president of Yampa Valley Bank in Craig and DeRose is a former business owner, mayor and city councilman.
In his letter of resignation, DeRose described discussions "about what I can only identify as the continued micromanagement from Commissioner Moe" between the LMD board and Moe at the last LMD meeting on Nov. 29.
It was during that meeting that DeRose "offered to present my resignation."
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Updike recalls supporting DeRose.
"When Dave said he was leaving, I said I was behind him," Updike said.
While no one resigned during the LMD meeting, about a week later, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, Moe sent his letter requesting DeRose's resignation.
"At their last meeting, Dave offered his resignation, and I thought it would help the dynamics of the situation if he resigned, and this is what the result was," Moe said.
DeRose was unavailable for interview Dec. 7, but his resignation seemed to trigger the others.
"Number one, I was a city appointee, and I had nothing but support from the city. Number two, from day one, I've had nothing but interference from Frank Moe, and you couldn't reason with him. Number three, the fact that he could ask, as a commissioner, for DeRose's resignation, and succeeded with no fallout, proved that, if you made any decision counter to Frank Moe, you'd just be replaced. You knew you had no future. There's no fight there; you're unarmed," Updike said of his decision.
The Craig City Council appoints three members, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners appoints three members and the town of Dinosaur appoints one member to the LMD board. The three governing entities also annually approve the LMD budget and operating plan, as well as any changes to the by-laws.
Moe said he was not in a position to ask for resignations from the appointees of other entities, and he did not ask for Fleming’s resignation.
"The people on the boards that we deal with and work with, these people are volunteers; they are high profile people in our community. All of these people have done beneficial things for the community all of their lives and careers. I asked Dave (to resign), as I thought the dynamics would change … and to come up with a plan, would be beneficial," Moe said.
The plan Moe has been pushing for months is the merger of LMD with other entities responsible for economic development, including the Moffat County Tourism Association and the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership.
"None of it was intended to micromanage. It (LMD) was intended to have an operating plan that each entity (city, county, town of Dinosaur and LMD) signed off on, with quarterly reports on progress," Moe said.
The resignations leave Dave Heinrich, appointed by Dinosaur, and new members Luke Tucker, appointed by the city in November, and Tammie Thompson Booker as the remaining board members. Booker was appointed to the LMD board by a vote of two of the county commissioners at meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with Commissioner Don Cook abstaining.
New by-laws were in the process of finalization, but had not yet been approved. Therefore, under the existing by-laws, "when there is a vacancy on the board, the entity whose position is vacant shall make an appointment to fill the vacancy for the remaining term of that vacant position within 90 days."
“I am hoping we can find some good people who will jump in and serve their community on the LMD,” said Craig Mayor John Ponikvar.
As the by-laws require a four-member quorum to conduct business, the three remaining board members must now wait for the appointment of new board members by the city and county before moving forward.
Ponikvar thanked the resigning board members in an email Thursday and acknowledged the difficulties they faced.
“You were put in an unenviable position of developing a new organization which, in itself, is a huge task, and then, you were exposed to questioning and constant interference. I applaud your steadfast efforts and desire to move forward … in spite of the challenges that were put before you,” Ponikvar said.
Like DeRose, Fleming was not available for interview Thursday, so it is unclear what's next for them.
Richmond said he struggled with his decision to exit the LMD.
"I'm not a quitter. I hang through things. However, when it became apparent that the future of this board is nothing more than an ongoing, embroiled conflict, I decided it was in the best interest of the community to resign," Richmond said.
Resigning from the board does not mean quitting on Craig.
"I'm too committed to the community," Updike said. "I'll continue my efforts, but I'll do them as a citizen and not a board member."
All six letters referenced here can be read online at CraigDailyPress.com by clicking the images in this story.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.