MOFFAT — The back and forth exchange with the town of Moffat and Robert and Virgil Tafoya continues following Robert Tafoya’s recent receipt of a letter from the town’s attorney, Eric Schwiesow, addressing charges for open records requests and other issues raised by Tafoya.
Since July, Robert Tafoya and his brother Virgil, also several other Moffat residents, have been protesting how the town of Moffat conducts its business and the introduction of marijuana grows within the city limits.
In the process of determining who might be growing cannabis locally, whether or not they are growing legally, who is providing water for the grows or whether wells used for the cultivation are properly adjudicated, local residents have encountered nothing but difficulty in obtaining documents, maps and previous ordinances and resolutions.
This is only one problem; other problems, residents point out, include conflicts of interest on the town board and difficulty receiving Colorado Open Records Act requests in a complete and timely manner. The Tafoyas, in attempting to unravel the zoning and water laws of the town, requested several records, and in so doing discovered the town is likely in violation of more than just the statutes regarding conflicts of interest and possibly state marijuana laws.
Robert Tafoya addressed a letter to Mayor Patricia Reigel Oct.1 protesting a $17 fee for a records search which Tafoya believes was unnecessary. “[These] documents are supposed to be readily available to the public,” Tafoya objected. He also asked for the law document cited by the town clerk which states the town “does not have to provide itemized statements for documents.”
Also in his letter, Tafoya asks why the town of Moffat does not have all its records from previous years, many of which are said to be in the possession of previous town officials. “I am specifically asking why Melinda Myers [a former board member and former Saguache County clerk] would have an old zoning map instead of the town.” He further notified the mayor that the zoning map he received bears no date stamps, state signatures or certified surveyor signatures.“[It is] my understanding from the state that there must be papers filed with them to initiate a zoning map and then it must proceed, according to state standards, to be developed. The town of Moffat must pay for all surveys completed when the map is developed.”
In a letter written Oct. 13, town attorney Schwiesow addressed Tafoya’s observations in the letter and directed him to appear at a town board meeting to request a waiver of the research fees. Schwiesow said in his letter he is “unaware of any authority either way” regarding the issue of not providing an itemized statement for researching town records.
The request “for a number of documents,” which in previous letters of request provided by Tafoya included a zoning map for the town and the date approved, any ordinance passed by the town showing that adjacent property owners do not need to be notified of impending zoning changes, a petition submitted to the board this spring opposing the growing of marijuana within the city limits and records for the past two years showing bids posted by the town for work and who was hired to do the work.
Schwiesow said it took the town two hours to do the research. Some of the documents should have been available in Word document or PDF format and could have been emailed to Tafoya or his brother at no charge. The town had no obligation to track each task separately in providing the documents he said and per statute could charge accordingly.
Most municipalities, however, have the documents like those requested by Tafoya readily available and charge only 25 cents per page for copying costs.
In response to Tafoya’s inquiry about Myers and other former town officials still possessing Moffat records, Schwiesow responded: “The town believes (to be clear, it does not know this for a fact) there may be town documents stored in a storage shed owned by former trustee Melinda Myers. If that is the case, the town will retrieve or otherwise ensure access to these documents. It cannot determine whether there are any such documents until Ms. Myers is back in town to open the storage unit.”
In a letter addressed to Reigel dated Oct. 15, referencing a prior phone conversation, Tafoya wrote: “Mr. Ken Skoglund has repeatedly harassed me in several town meetings despite requests by me he stop this behavior. During the meeting of Oct. 13, apparently he could not contain himself and he again challenged me about newspaper articles and pushed me to bring in a lawyer.
“I informed you and he town of Moffat trustees in one public meeting that I would not be harassed, intimidated, threatened or profaned in these meetings by… Skoglund. I do not believe that you should defer to Mr. Skoglund when questions are asked of you. You are the mayor of Moffat and have a responsibility to all the public who attend these meetings. I believe that this issue is one of the main reasons more people from the town of Moffat do not attend these meetings.”
Tafoya called Skoglund’s behavior at the meetings “domestic abuse” and told Reigel it should never be tolerated. He also mentioned that he has sent copies of his communications with the town to various agencies, including the Colorado Attorney General’s office, the state ethics commission, Schwiesow and the Saguache Sheriff’s Office.