WINDSOR — Windsor Mayor Paul Rennemeyer told residents on Monday that he wants them to stop questioning decisions made by town government as part of the ongoing state of emergency around COVID-19.
Rennemeyer read a prepared statement toward the end of the town board meeting that Windsor is in a state of emergency and will remain there until everyone around them decides it’s safe to move on, and that Town Manager Shane Hale will continue to have carte blanche authority to lead the town without prior approval from the board.
“I acknowledge there are some serious actions that could have been ordered by the town manager,” Rennemeyer said, adding any of those actions, such as shutting down businesses and invoking curfews would require town board to extend any such move past 72 hours. “There has not been an abuse of power by our town manager. This is yet another matter that needs to be laid to rest.”
Rennemeyer’s remarks came as Windsor residents continue to contact board members about two recent activities that they believe are not appropriate.
The first is a resolution passed by the board in March giving Hale broad, open-ended powers to take action without first seeking approval of the town board, with only the mayor acting as a check and balance, and then only if he chooses to revoke the state of emergency issued as result of COVID-19.
The emergency powers granted the town manager include (but are not limited to) such things as:
- Create a town curfew for up to 72 hours.
- Evacuate all or part of the town and create transportation routes.
- Close private businesses for up to 72 hours.
- Allocate and expend funds, execute contracts, obtain property – all with no limitations.
- Suspend or modify any provision of any town ordinance.
- Accept services, gifts, grants, loans, etc. – with no limitations.
Exercise of these powers are supposed to be in relation to the town’s response to the pandemic; however, the document is vague and requires Hale only have a “consultation” with the mayor before proceeding. He does not require the mayor’s approval.
Despite continued requests from constituents to revoke the authority, Rennemeyer has refused, and Town Board member Victor Tallon took to social media to explain why published information on the matter is “false.” In one such assertion, Tallon claimed that Hale needs the authority because under Colorado law 72 hours-notice is required for a town board meeting. That is inaccurate. State law requires 24 hours-notice of a meeting unless there in an emergency, in which case notice “as soon as possible” is all that is required.
The second issue is a contract executed by Hale that guaranteed up to $50,000 in town funds to an out-of-town company under the guise it would help small restaurants during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“I want to put finality to two matters that should have been settled weeks ago,” Rennemeyer said, while implying that one board member, David Sislowski, was accusing Hale of wrongdoing or abusing his powers.
Sislowski, however, has never accused Hale of abuse, rather he has questioned giving such broad powers to an unelected official to carry out. Sislowski also never accused Hale of executing the contract without the blessing of the board. Sislowski, along with at least two other board members did question the contract in general and whether the tax subsidy was the proper role of government.
For the purpose of his title of mayor, Rennemeyer is not what is considered a “strong mayor,” in which he has more power than the town board collectively. He acts as the spokesperson of the board and leads the meetings under Roberts Rule of Order. Rennemeyer’s vote has no more strength or power than any one of the other board members, and Rennemeyer is not able to make decisions in most cases without plurality of the full board.
However, Rennemeyer was pointed with his remarks, making clear that Hale has worked closely with him on all decisions, and he alone has approved them, only contacting the board when he feels it necessary.
“We’re done. It’s time to lay any issue of wrongdoing regarding the food delivery service program to rest,” Rennemeyer said. “… All of these actions have been done with my knowledge, input and blessing, and I haven’t seen any abuse with the exercise of these powers. The town manager has always consulted with me before taking any action. I can confirm that both he and I have had regular meetings throughout this pandemic. When time has allowed the entire town board has been consulted and updated on these actions.”
Rennemeyer also made it clear that Windsor will remain in a state of emergency until everyone around Windsor decides to do differently.
“We remain in a state emergency,” Rennemeyer said. “We will remain there until it is safe to (open everything) to 100 percent capacity … until Windsor’s neighbors do the same … until the state of Colorado no longer operates under a state of emergency … until we can move freely and safely between countries.”
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