Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs City Council member Ken Brenner has returned a complimentary ski pass after being questioned about it at a council meeting Tuesday night.
Brenner said he received the ski pass for his work as a ski coach and volunteer with the Rocky Mountain Division of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. He said he has received the pass for years and that it has nothing to do with his service on council. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. officials confirmed Brenner's statement; nevertheless, he returned the ski pass Wednesday.
During the public comment portion of Tuesday's Steamboat Springs City Council meeting, Bob Maddox questioned Brenner about the ski pass. Maddox not only asked Brenner why the ski pass had not been listed in Brenner's report of gifts and honoraria as a council member, but also stated that it is inappropriate for Brenner to vote on Ski Corp.-related issues while holding such a pass.
The issue raises questions about conflicts of interest and where to draw the lines, in a small and close-knit community like Steamboat Springs, between professional employment, volunteer work and public service.
"I was so surprised that he brought it up," Brenner said. "But people des-erve to know what is going on."
Local and reg-ional ski officials support Brenner's version of why he received the pass.
"Mr. Brenner has been a longtime proponent of ski racing in the Rocky Mountain Division of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, and as an Inter-national Ski Federation technical delegate, ski coach, and primarily as an expert in sport conditioning and fitness assessment," wrote Roger Perricone, president of the Rocky Mountain Division.
"Ken has and continues to give his hours to this cause voluntarily, and in return, I requested that he receive a complimentary pass from Colorado Ski Country USA, a marketing arm of most ski areas in Colorado : It is my understanding that Ken received a season pass from the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., based on the aforementioned reasons."
Brenner said he returned the pass to Ski Corp. with a letter to Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond.
"While I disagree with your decision, I can respect your desire to avoid any controversy," Diamond responded to Brenner. "We have appreciated your continued commitment to ski racing : and, specifically, your technical assistance in race management on our mountain."
Maddox, a pilot and owner of Mountain Flight Services, said Thursday his primary complaint is that Steamboat citizens did not know about the ski pass.
"I was mostly concerned that he had never disclosed how he had a $1,500 pass in his back pocket while he was making votes," Maddox said. "I think it's a conflict of interest under the (state) statute and under the council's own ethical guidelines."
An adult season pass to Steamboat Ski Area, purchased after Nov. 17, costs $1,499.
Brenner said he never thoug-ht his complimentary pass would violate Colorado statutes regulating how elected officials report gifts and honoraria.
"What we were told when we filled it out was that it was for items that pertain to your council job. And in fact, that is what the statute says - that it pertains to your council duties," Brenner said. "I didn't feel it had anything to do with my council duties. It has to do with my ski racing - that's why it wasn't on there."
The state Legislature is wrestling with the repercussions of Amendment 41, a ballot issue passed by Colorado voters in November that places broad, vaguely-worded restrictions on what gifts elected officials can or cannot receive.
Brenner has served on the council for seven of the past nine years and is a former council president. He said he will further discuss the ski pass issue at Tuesday's council meeting.
"I don't think that I would see it as a conflict," said City Council President Susan Dellinger. "Having Ken step down on base area redevelopment - that would be really hard for me to do, based on a $1,500 ski pass. I think conflict of interest is important, but in a town of 12,000, there's always going to be some relation.
"Once you start going down these roads, I don't know who would be able to be on council. If you start eliminating people, are you eliminating the representation that people hope to have on the council?"
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