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Durango city councilor calls for reprimand after ‘manipulative’ motion

Olivier Bosmans adamant more transparency needed
Six candidates for Durango City Council shared ideas for the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts before the April 6 election. Durango City Hall, 949 East Second Avenue.

After a fiery end to a Durango City Council meeting in November, where Councilor Olivier Bosmans requested a special meeting to review a perceived personnel matter, Councilor Gilda Yazzie is seeking a formal reprimanding of Bosmans.

Bosmans’ request put councilors on the spot about whether to support a special meeting by vote without first knowing what it would be about.

He said on Friday he requested the meeting to discuss the city’s Leasing for Locals rental subsidy program and that it was never presented to City Council for consideration. Other councilors said the subject’s been discussed three separate times.

Yazzie said on Friday Bosmans’ abrupt request for a special meeting implied “something awful” had occurred with city staff or the city manager, and his concern proved unwarranted and manipulative of the other councilors.

“Nothing happened. He just did that to jerk us around,” she said.

Gilda Yazzie
Special meeting request

In the final minutes of the Nov. 7 meeting, Bosmans delayed adjournment when he sought council support for an executive session to discuss a personnel matter he did not elaborate on.

Perplexed, Mayor Melissa Youssef and Councilors Dave Woodruff and Yazzie were unsure how to respond.

Woodruff said Bosmans placed councilors in an awkward position by springing it upon them without first consulting with City Attorney Mark Morgan. The city attorney is normally the party to call for an executive session after consulting with council and deciding that one is warranted.

Morgan insisted Bosmans discuss the matter privately with him so he could determine whether an executive session is necessary. He said if Bosmans’ issue is with him, a third-party special counsel could be brought in.

Bosmans said the personnel matter was not about Morgan, and he was ardent about scheduling a meeting then and there if council would support it. He then shifted his request from an executive session to a special meeting to bring his concerns to light in a public setting.

As a news release about Yazzie’s resolution published Friday says, Woodruff and Yazzie reluctantly voted to approve the special meeting without scheduling a specific date.

Youssef abstained from the vote. Councilor Jessika Buell was absent from the meeting and did not cast a vote.

Yazzie said she supported Bosmans’ motion for a special session because if there was an issue with an appointed city official, she wanted to get to the bottom of it.

The news release says a vote by council to dismiss Bosmans’ proposed special meeting would “undermine the public trust and create the perception council was unwilling to investigate a matter regarding the city’s appointed officials.”

But there was ultimately nothing to investigate, Yazzie said.

The resolution

Yazzie’s proposed resolution calls for the reprimand of Bosmans for “unbecoming” behavior that falsely cast City Council in a bad light. If passed, the resolution would require an official letter of apology from City Council to City Manager Jose Madrigal and his staff.

The resolution says Bosmans intended to “manufacture the false perception that the City Manager had committed an act that required council intervention prior to the adoption of the 2024 city budget” that he “Intentionally manipulated the city attorney and his fellow councilors to perpetuate this false public perception” and he “Brought disrepute to the City and City Council.”

Olivier Bosmans

On Friday, Bosmans said an apology would be a “joke.”

“There was no special meeting and there was nothing discussed of content,” he said. “So what would I apologize for? And on top of it, I wouldn't apologize.”

The personnel matter Bosmans wants to address is related to the Leasing for Locals program, a two-year pilot program that committed $775,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funding to creating 30 multifamily below-market rentals at the Gauge Apartments at 1275 Escalante Drive for Durango workers.

Durango Housing Innovation Manager Eva Henson told The Durango Herald in October the $775,000 for Leasing from Locals comes from $1 million in ARPA funds earmarked for housing initiatives.

City Countil approved a budget appropriation totaling $5.2 million for housing initiatives, which included ARPA funds, in March.

If the program were extended past its pilot phase, the city would need to find another funding source for it, according to Henson.

Bosmans said he’s concerned about the city funding the program long-term if continued past its pilot phase.

“That commitment that the city made was never presented to City Council or our community in a public session,” he said.

Bosmans said in a follow-up interview on Saturday that City Council should have been informed about the dollar amount attached specifically to the Leasing for Locals program before it received funding and launched.

He said that was the subject of his requested executive session and special meeting, and he wants clarification about city process on such matters.

“We should have been informed in advance and to communicate it to our community,” he said. “ … This is purely about transparency because I didn't accuse anybody. I wanted to have a meeting so this can be presented. And then we can decide as a council or community, (because) that would be visible, transparent.”

Youssef said in a text message on Saturday Bosmans had the opportunity to raise his concerns during City Council’s budget retreat in October or a study session about the budget.

She also said a 10-year agreement with the Gauge Apartments, in which the developers will maintain 14 units as deed-restricted, is completely separate from the two-year Leasing from Locals program.

City staff could have responded to his concerns and provided him clarity, she said.

“If he had (asked), all of this could have been avoided,” she added.

Tom Sluis, city spokesman, said in a text on Saturday information about the Leasing for Locals program has been made available in multiple instances, and Bosmans has either refused to take it or has misunderstood the process.

In the news release, Morgan says Bosmans acted in bad faith at the Nov. 7 City Council meeting and that the Leasing for Locals program has appeared before the council three times already, but Bosmans did not attend those meetings.

“This entire ordeal could have been avoided if Councilor Bosmans would have simply asked a question about a minor expenditure in three prior public meetings,” Morgan says.

Bosmans said he watches the streams of meetings that he does not attend in person.

Yazzie said her resolution might make Bosmans realize his impact on the rest of City Council and city staff.

“I don't know who he is fighting. I think we're all in this together,” she said.


A previous version of this article incorrectly stated a Durango City Council resolution would require Councilor Bosmans to issue an apology letter to the city manager’s office. The apology letter would be issued by City Council as a whole.

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