Steamboat Springs Planning Commissioner Steve Lewis is the first Steamboat Springs resident to be identified as a contributor to the secretive political committee Concerned Citizens for the Future of Steamboat Springs.
Speaking at his Oak Street office Tuesday afternoon, Lewis said he is responsible for two recent newspaper advertisements placed by the committee - one defending the city's planned purchase of the Iron Horse Inn to provide affordable rental housing for city employees and another criticizing at-large Steamboat Springs City Council candidate and fellow Planning Commissioner Cari Hermacinski.
Lewis, who also said his monetary contributions at least partially paid for the ads, would not divulge the names of other contributors or otherwise discuss the committee beyond his own involvement.
"I haven't been engaged in other ads or other elements they're doing," Lewis said. "I'll let others speak for themselves. : I'm trying here to take ownership of the Iron Horse Inn ad and the ad criticizing the developer accountability of Cari."
Forms on file at City Hall show that the Concerned Citizens for the Future of Steamboat Springs is a registered issues committee and that its members are "proponents for incumbent candidates" Karen Post, Susan Dellinger and Towny Anderson - Hermacinski's opponent.
Cheryl A. Witt of Westminster is listed as the contact person for the committee. Messages left on Witt's home phone Friday and Tuesday have not been returned. Anderson, Dellinger and Post have flatly denied any involvement with the committee or prior knowledge of its advertisements.
Lewis said he got involved with the committee after becoming discouraged by other campaign advertisements and claims made by some candidates.
"I didn't like the advertising I was seeing," Lewis said. "I'd like people to answer the questions, answer the criticisms and not defame the person who asked the question or made the criticism."
Lewis's ad Tuesday criticizing Hermacinski was in response to her claims that she will hold developers accountable if elected to City Council.
"I completely disagree with her ad's statement that she will mandate developer accountability," Lewis said. "I couldn't find a case of her voting against any development application."
Hermacinski has said she disagrees with all of the claims made in Lewis's ad.
Lewis said he was comfortable putting his name behind the ads. He said he didn't initially identify himself in the ads because he hoped that approach would avoid putting strains on the Planning Commission.
"I thought it would be less controversial," he said.
Lewis doesn't believe his disclosure will affect the Planning Commission's work.
"Cari has a right to run for City Council, and I have a right to separate myself from Planning Commission as well and oppose her," Lewis said.
Hermacinski agreed that the Planning Commission would continue to function effectively.
"Steve's involvement in the Concerned Citizens for the Future of Steamboat will in no way effect my professional interaction with Steve or my decisions on the Planning Commission, since my decisions are not based upon personal agendas," Hermacinski said in an e-mail. "That being said, I believe that people stating their positions in a transparent manner by attaching their names to their claims, rather than hiding behind a veil, holds them more accountable for the things they advertise."