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Silverton resident takes town trustee to task over Pledge of Allegiance

Sheriff: Resident came close to charges of harassment, menacing
A frame grab from a video of the Silverton Town Board meeting on April 9 shows resident Ron Renowden at the lectern during the public comment period, when he chastised a board trustee for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance.

A Silverton resident will not face repercussions but came dangerously close to charges of harassment and menacing after verbally attacking a Silverton town trustee last week for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ron Renowden spoke during the public comment period at the Town Board meeting April 9 to direct personal attacks on outgoing Trustee Malcolm MacDougall after he did not stand during the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of meeting.

After not doing so for a year, Mayor Christine Tookey said the Town Board started reciting the pledge at the beginning of its meetings a few months ago.

“We had people that had talked about it in the community, and they just brought it forth,” Tookey said. “We made a decision we were going to start doing it, so we did.”

MacDougall, however, chose to sit during the pledge. Calls to MacDougall for comment for this story were not returned.

The April 9 meeting was MacDougall’s last as a trustee after he chose not to run in the most recent election this year.

Renowden, who has lived in Silverton about 10 years, disagrees with MacDougall’s decision.

Renowden told The Durango Herald on Tuesday that he had attended three or four Town Board meetings and was angered that McDougall was not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Renowden is a veteran, having served four years in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era.

“I was just furious that he was so disrespectful,” Renowden said. “It really bothered me.”

At the meeting, Renowden began: “I understand you don’t believe in God and will have to deal with that. That’s the worst man to mess with.

“I’m here to address you not standing up for the Pledge of Allegiance. It infuriates the hell out of me that you don’t have the courage or the consideration to stand when we do the Pledge of Allegiance and put your hand over your heart.

“For you to show such disrespect,” he continued. “If you don’t want to stand for the flag, you should leave this country. It’s a shame. Your father was in the military in Vietnam. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

MacDougall tried to interject. But Renowden continued.

“You’re a smart ass, and everyone in this town knows it,” Renowden said. “And you better hope that one of these days, if it wasn’t to go to jail, somebody’s going to kick your butt up and down Greene Street.”

At this point, MacDougall said Renowden was making threats to his personal safety. Tookey broke up the exchange and Renowden left the podium.

“You’re full of crap. You’re a disgusting human,” Renowden said as he walked away.

The town of Silverton, as it does for all its public meetings, uploaded the hearing online. Renowden began talking around the 3:30 mark into the meeting.

San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad said he received a verbal complaint from a person at the meeting who said a resident had threatened a town trustee.

The Sheriff’s Office reviewed the recording of the meeting, Conrad said.

“While it was aggressive, it did not meet the elements of harassing or menacing,” Conrad said. “The way (Renowden) worded it ... he danced around menacing.”

Conrad said officers intended to speak with Renowden about how close he came to being charged with harassment and menacing for his comments.

Silverton Town Manager Louis Fineberg said the Town Board has a zero tolerance for unruly behavior. Since he’s taken on the job about six months ago, Fineberg said the Silverton Town Board, which had a tumultuous few years, has been going in a positive direction.

“We are very conscious of not returning to where we were,” Fineberg said. “People have been behaving, and we want to make sure that stays the dynamic.”

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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