County planning director resigns

Erick Aune submitted resignation the day after comp plan dropped

La Plata County’s planning director resigned this month – one day after an appointed volunteer board dumped a proposed comprehensive plan that cost more than $700,000, 150 community meetings and two years of work to produce.

“After the conclusion of the Comprehensive Plan on Dec. 8, I believe it is now time to focus my energy in other arenas,” Aune wrote in a resignation letter to Interim County Manager Joanne Spina dated Dec. 9.

With county commissioners’ blessing, the La Plata County Planning Commission abandoned work on the proposed visionary document that would have guided the county’s development over the next 20 years after the process stalled for the second time amid strong community and political controversy. The controversy grew in recent months as claims of a flawed public process, an international conspiracy and unrelenting partisanship emerged.

Aune is the second top-ranking official to walk away from the county this year. County Manager Shawn Nau resigned in July, citing family and health issues.

Spina denied reports of Aune’s departure when questioned late Dec. 8, saying only that Aune was “currently employed with the county” at that time.

A message on Aune’s former phone extension at the county indicates an interim planning director has been named, although Aune’s resignation letter indicates his official last day with the county is Jan. 2. Aune could not be reached for comment.

When questioned earlier this month about reports that he was terminated or asked to resign, Kellie Hotter, chairwoman of the board of county commissioners, said she could not comment on personnel matters.

Commissioner Wally White said Monday that Aune’s resignation was not surprising.

“He received little to no support from my board or the vocal minority opposing the comp plan,” White said, adding that he was sad to lose an employee of Aune’s caliber. “He is a true professional, and I wish him well in the future.”

Aune did not return messages left on his voice mail Dec. 8 seeking comment about reports of his departure.

In his resignation letter, which is two paragraphs long, Aune said he was proud to be a part of the La Plata County Planning Department, and he lauded the department employees’ abilities and commitment to their work.

Aune was making $89,158 annually at the time of his resignation and had been working for the county since July 2005. He received a rating of “meets/exceeds” expectations on his most recent performance evaluation, Spina said.

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