Steamboat Springs With Oak Creek's municipal election just more than two weeks away, dueling viewpoints about the Oak Creek Police Department are poised to take center stage.
Mayor J. Elliott proposed an ordinance Thursday that would have disbanded the town's two-officer police department in favor of contracting with the Routt County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services. Elliott's proposal resulted in his public censure by Town Board members. Elliott is seeking re-election April 1 and is being challenged by former mayor Gerry Greenwood and former trustee Bill Paxton.
Reconciling the divergent views that increased police presence in Oak Creek is either sorely needed or damaging to the community will take many more months, Police Chief Russ Caterinicchio said.
"I'm very pleased with (Thursday's) outcome - but it's not over yet," Caterinicchio said Friday. The department plans to continue doing business as it is has been - professionally and according to the letter of the law, he said.
Elliott's censure, an official reprimand, barred him from further involvement in Town Board discussion of police issues. Trustee Tom Bleuer moved to censure Elliott because of his "inappropriate and vindictive actions."
Many town trustees and members of the public present Thursday, including those who have voiced their displeasure with the police, criticized Elliott's decision to direct the town attorney to draft an ordinance dissolving the department - a decision made without input from the Town Board, public discussion and without research into the cost and details of contracting with the Sheriff's Office.
Saying he represented a large voice in Oak Creek, the mayor previously had refused to recuse himself at the request of Trustee Dave Fisher, who cited Elliott's "obvious conflict of interest" in discussions about the police department.
Elliott owns the Colorado Bar with his wife, Becky Elliott, who was the author and primary circulator of a letter of concern enumerating complaints against the police department. That letter was delivered to the Town Board last month. Some local business owners have complained that increased police presence has hurt their bottom lines.
"This furthers your agenda as a business owner, to dismantle the police department," Fisher said.
The Town Board voted, 4-2, in favor of censure, with John Crawford and Steve "Spike" Beven voting against it. That vote and the board's previous action striking down Elliott's ordinance prompted some local residents to leave the meeting in anger, saying those who seem to favor the police department should not be re-elected.
Trustees Crawford, Beven and Wisecup are seeking re-election April 1. Fisher and Mayor Pro-Tem Angie Krall are not up for re-election this year, and Bleuer is not seeking another term.
The incumbents will be challenged by Larry "L.A." Anderson, David Ege, Bernard Gagne, Wendy Gustafson, Cal Martindale, Ed Paxton, Josh Voorhis and Richard Wisecup.