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Recall effort underway for three Silverton town board trustees

Elected officials under fire for positions on OHVs, not standing for Pledge of Allegiance
Silverton residents launched a recall effort in late July against three town trustees. (Durango Herald file)

Silverton residents have launched a recall effort against three town trustees, taking issue with them for various reasons, including failure to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, opposition to allowing off-highway vehicles in town and a general lack of keeping campaign promises.

Petition organizers asked for the resignation of Mayor Shane Fuhrman, Mayor Pro Tem Sallie Barney and Trustee Jordan Bierma. About 130 people signed the recall petitions, which have been certified by the town of Silverton, according to Fuhrman and Cole Davenport, one of the petition organizers.

None of the town trustees contested the recall effort before Tuesday’s deadline. A special election will be held to decide the matter, Davenport said.

Gloria Kaasch-Buerger, town administrator, declined to comment for this story about the recall process. It will be discussed during a board meeting Monday, she said.

Davenport, Gigi Raine and Floyd Barela led the recall effort. Barela is the husband of Molly Barela, one of the four town trustees not named in the recall effort.

“They lied to people on their (campaign) platforms. They said they were going to do this and that for the community. They turned around and threw the community under the bus,” said Davenport, who owns the Silverton Green Works marijuana dispensary.

Mayor Fuhrman said some of the stated reasons on the recall petitions are false and “ridiculous.”

“Some of the grounds aren’t even complete sentences,” Fuhrman said. “These grounds are pretty preposterous across the board.”

Sallie Barney

The petition against Barney seems to take issue with her stance on whether to allow off-highway vehicles in town.

The town has considered banning, fully allowing or maintaining current regulations for OHVs on town roads. Residents are going to vote on the regulations Oct. 12.

The recall petition against Barney reads: “Her view on OHV’s were she ‘didn’t have any data to make any recommendations’ and ‘they must have benefit.’ She ‘liked seeing OHV’s when the train wasn’t there.’ Sallie also wanted ‘people to live here all year round without job insecurity.’”

The petition then accused her of a lack of transparency, incompetence for not knowing how trustee meeting laws work and a lack of knowledge about community issues.

It also reads: “Sallie Barney took an oath to uphold the constitution of the state of Colorado, which shows she isn’t here to stand up for Silvertonians.”

Jordan Bierma

The petition against Bierma accuses him of refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of town board meetings, something the mayor has also declined to do in past meetings. In fact, the mayor suspended reciting the pledge at a past meeting, which sparked a community uproar and led to national media attention.

The petition reads: “Bierma said he would like to see more Veteran help in our community. By refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, shows he isn’t here to stand up for Silvertonians.”

The petition also accuses him of lying to the community about his views on OHVs, which shows a lack of support for economic growth.

“Due to incompetence and the lack thereof knowledge of our community issues, to help provide an economy for Silverton that works for all Silvertonians, Jordan Bierma should be recalled for not having the best interests of the Town of Silverton,” the petition reads.

Shane Fuhrman

Petitioners accuse Fuhrman of conflicts of interest and attempting to enrich himself, not advocating for affordable housing and not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

While Fuhrman acknowledges he doesn’t stand for the pledge, he said the other statements are “outright lies that were uninvestigated.”

For example, petitioners say Fuhrman, a managing partner at Selwyn Capital Management, bought the “only affordable building in town that houses service workers with the intent to convert the apartments to condominiums for sale and used as vacation rentals.”

But Fuhrman said he campaigned on the need for affordable housing, not specifically housing for the service industry.

He did buy an apartment building, but it is not the only affordable building in town nor is it deed-restricted as affordable housing, he said.

He has retained existing tenants and affordable prices, and he has no intention of turning the apartments into vacation rentals, Fuhrman said.

The town does not have tools to review petitions for accuracy, Fuhrman said. State statute allows voters to judge the legality and reasonableness of a recall petition, but the grounds of the petition are not open to review.

The trustees facing recall said they didn’t contest the petitions because they want to get through the process expeditiously, without wasting staff members’ time or incurring attorney fees.

“Let the community decide what they want,” Fuhrman said. “At the end of the day, we serve at the pleasure of the citizens. If the citizens would like us to be their elected officials, and we will do our jobs as best we can.”

Davenport said the petition process was about being a “voice” for people who were afraid to speak up. He said he risked his business to lead the petition effort, adding that others have been bullied over the contentious issues facing the town.

“Hopefully, the recall efforts will succeed, and when we go to special elections, we’ll elect people to the office that will actually do the job for the people, by the people,” Davenport said.

smullane@durangoherald.com

This story has been updated to correct the nature of Silverton Mayor Shane Fuhrman’s campaign pledges and real estate dealings, and the spelling of his last name.

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