Judge drops Art Charette’s firing case

Former planning commission alternate failed to respond to motion to dismiss

A district court judge has dismissed a case filed against La Plata County by ousted volunteer planning board member Author “Art” Charette.

“We believe this confirms the legality of (commissioners’) decision to dismiss Mr. Charette under the circumstances,” said La Plata County Attorney Sheryl Rogers.

Charette filed the lawsuit late last year after county commissioners fired him from his position as an alternate on the county’s volunteer planning commission. He came under scrutiny after a letter to the editor by him was published in The Durango Herald. The letter accused the United Nations of an international takeover plot, took shots at President Barack Obama and called the nation’s students “functional illiterates.”

A special meeting was called in August to discuss his possible removal. During the meeting, which lasted less than 12 minutes, commissioners said the letter amounted to misconduct and made the county look bad. At the time the letter was published, controversy was swirling around a proposed comprehensive plan that was before the planning commission for consideration.

“The letter demonstrated a lack of objectivity and has an overall disparaging, disrespectful and unprofessional tone,” Kellie Hotter, county commissioner, said when they voted to terminate Charette.

Charette didn’t return a call for comment about the dismissal of his case.

In the lawsuit, Charette accused county officials of violating their own policies, breaking open-meeting laws and scarring his reputation. He said the county failed to properly notify him of meetings held to discuss his termination and may have broken state laws in closed-door sessions held on the matter.

Rogers repeatedly has asserted that commissioners did not violate the law or Charette’s rights. She said the judge’s December ruling to dismiss the case “with prejudice,” meaning the case cannot be re-filed, should serve as proof.

“The county filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Charette’s suit on the basis that it did not state any claims he could prevail on and commissioners were within their rights in dismissing him from the planning commission,” Rogers said.

The motion, filed Nov. 11, began by saying the “plaintiff’s complaint is based on a hodgepodge of claims surrounding his removal” from the planning commission. It went on to list numerous technical and legal reasons why the case should be dropped.

According to court records, Charette did not file a response to the county’s motion.

hscofield@durangoherald.com

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