Former Yampa Valley Housing Authority executive director questions his firing

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— On July 12, George Krawzoff was told he was fired as executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. Krawzoff said he was stunned and has been left grasping at answers to the reason for his falling out of favor.

The Housing Authority board looked like it was moving on without him and searching for a replacement. But on Aug. 9, the board did a double-take, making a motion to terminate Krawzoff and pay him up until that date.

In the almost monthlong period between July 12 and Aug. 9, and in the weeks since, Krawzoff has sought answers about why he was terminated within a few months of being hired. He’s read a statement to the Steamboat Springs City Council detailing issues he said he found in the Housing Authority’s financials, and he filed a whistle-blower complaint with the federal government.

The board, for its part, has had a series of meetings and executive sessions related to Krawzoff’s departure, including seeking advice from its attorney before firing him for a second time, in open session, at its Aug. 9 meeting.

Krawzoff had been in the executive director position for a little less three months, joining in April after former executive director Mary Alice Page-Allen, who had been a part of the Housing Authority since its inception, left to become the town administrator of Oak Creek.

As a new employee, Krawzoff was in an initial review period and was expecting a performance review at the end of six months. Less than three months in, on July 12, board President Rich Lowe requested an executive session to conduct a performance review of the executive director, according to Housing Authority meeting minutes.

At 1:11 p.m., the board moved to enter an executive session that would include only board members. Krawzoff said he was asked to leave the room and was not given the opportunity to participate. He did not press the issue or ask for the session to be held in open session.

“I expected to be called back in. I was shocked,” Krawzoff said about not being involved in the review.

Instead, the executive session ended at 2:11 p.m., and board member John Spezia immediately moved to adjourn the Housing Authority meeting, tabling the remaining agenda items. The motion carried unanimously, according to meeting minutes.

Krawzoff said Lowe gave him the opportunity to resign after that July 12 meeting, but Krawzoff declined. At that point, Krawzoff was told he was fired, according to Krawzoff and a statement read by Lowe at the Housing Authority's Aug. 9 meeting.

According to Housing Authority documents, the organization started to move past Krawzoff. On July 24, the board confirmed Page-Allen as interim director on a part-time, unpaid basis. Meeting minutes show Lowe signed her appointment July 15. An updated job description was drafted, and a staff report was written about the hiring of a new executive director.

But something changed before Aug. 2.

On Aug. 2, the Housing Authority board held a special meeting in executive session with its attorney, Bob Weiss, for legal advice. The third version of the Aug. 9 Housing Authority meeting agenda reflects two executive sessions that were not on the previous two versions of the agenda.

The first executive session was to discuss personnel matters related to the firing of the executive director, and the second was for legal advice from Weiss. Following the sessions, Krawzoff was terminated by the board in open session. In his statement at the beginning of the meeting, Lowe extended to Krawzoff the invitation to join the Aug. 9 executive session or ask for it to be held publicly. But Krawzoff was not in attendance and said he didn’t know about the meeting until after it already had taken place. An email Weiss sent informing him of the meeting had the wrong email address, and the letter a Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputy brought to Krawzoff's home Aug. 8 went undelivered.

Undersheriff Ray Birch confirmed that someone from his office tried to deliver a letter to Krawzoff’s house as a courtesy to outgoing Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who also serves on the Housing Authority’s board. He said the letter was not delivered because Krawzoff was not home. The letter eventually was mailed to Krawzoff at his request, and it reached him Aug. 13, four days after the Aug. 9 meeting. Krawzoff said the letter contained a printed version of the email.

Krawzoff said that even if he had been informed of the Aug. 9 meeting and executive session, he would not have attended.

“Everything that needed to be said among them would have been said July 12,” he said.

Krawzoff said he has requested the recording of the July 12 executive session, during which his performance was reviewed and after which he was fired, but has been denied access. The Steamboat Today has asked that the Housing Authority retain all audio tapes of its executive sessions beyond the 90 days required by law. Colorado Open Meetings Law prohibits public bodies from taking any action in executive session.

The Housing Authority is an agency funded largely by the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County and is subject to the Colorado Open Records Act. It was created as a multijurisdictional housing authority by an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the county in 2003.

According to Steamboat Today archives, Krawzoff was one of five finalists interviewed for the executive director position in March.

Krawzoff has served as a planning commissioner and a county commissioner in Pitkin County. He was the Steamboat Springs Transportation Services director from October 2001 through March 2008. After leaving that position and spending some time consulting, he was appointed by then-Gov. Bill Ritter as the Colorado Department of Transportation commissioner representing Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Jackson, Grand, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties. His term expired in 2011.

Krawzoff said he doesn’t know why he was fired, and that’s what motivates him to continue to press the issue.

“I believe I was doing an excellent job. I was certainly making every effort.”

Lowe declined to comment on the reason for Krawzoff’s termination, saying it was a personnel issue.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

walt jones 1 year, 7 months ago

Amazing this City Council is sure making a name for itself and a not a good one I might add!!!

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John St Pierre 1 year, 7 months ago

Would be best to hold any impressions until everything is revealed...

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

What is the financial questions that Krawzoff had?

This paper seems to want to make the big story about executive sessions and agenda items, but the big story should be that Mr Krawzoff claims there are financial issues. And now they've put back the previous executive director which is the response of a board quite sure there are no financial issues.

"But something changed before Aug. 2." - well duh, George didn't resign and so now board had to take the legal steps to fire him.

Seems to me that both sides are all in. Being a former executive director filing a whistle blower lawsuit pretty much makes Mr Krawzoff unemployable if he is wrong. And YVHA by bringing back previous executive director is saying there are no issues here other than Mr Krawzoff. If YVHA board is wrong then YVHA is going to need a completely new board and management staff.

It would appear pretty cut and dried that YVHA board did improperly make a decision in executive session and based upon what happened in the school board case, that results in the entire public session becoming public record. Hopefully, YVHA won't spend money fighting that losing case. YVHA's own statement says they decided in the executive session to fire George so there is little room to for YVHA to claim there is a factual dispute that they decided the issue in executive session.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

The agenda and executive sessions ultimately have little consequence because the board has the right to fire George. If they improperly made that decision in executive session on July 12th and even if the Aug 9th meeting was improperly noticed then the board could still hold another meeting and officially fire him. So Mr Krawzoff might be entitled to a few weeks extra pay because YVHA board doesn't know how to properly fire someone.

But how is it that Mr Krawzoff read a letter of financial issues to the SB City Council that was not mentioned in any other article and this article cannot even state the data of the meeting which he read that letter? And interesting choice to include all of YVHA letters as PDFs along this article, but not Mr Krawzoff's letter to the SB CC.

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John Weibel 1 year, 7 months ago

Good question Scott. I was wondering what the real story within the article was.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Well, I found the minutes from the SB Council meeting and that just says he was complaining about being fired. While minutes tend to be rather heavily edited, it'd normally mention a claim of financial issues. So the financial issues part is still a mystery.

But look at how blatant the YVHA board violated open meeting rules. From the YVHA statement: During the Executive Session the Board directed President Rich Lowe and Board member John Spezia to speak with George to offer him the opportunity to submit his resignation and receive severance pay. He stated that the Board would have to fire him. President Lowe, with Board member Spezia present, then told Mr.Krawzoff that he was terminated.


In a public statement they state they made a decision in executive session which is simply not allowed. According to the open meeting law, a board is allowed to discuss an issue in executive session, but not make a decision. They are then supposed to leave executive session and then discuss nonconfidential parts of the issue and make the decision in public.

Seems obvious to me that YVHA Board violated the open meeting law. Which was recognized by YVHA and their lawyer as meaning that decision was not legally binding so the had to hold another meeting and fire him by following the rules. Which they did.

But, from the case of the SB school board, the remedy of an improper executive session is not to have the board say "ignore that and let us try again", but to disqualify the executive session and thus convert it into a public session where the minutes and recording become public record.

So Pilot should ask for a copy of the executive session minutes and recording. And if it is turned down then it should file a court case. The open meetings and open records law says that the government agency has to pay the other side's legal fees.

As of now, not only are the reasons for firing George secret, their statement also says they decided to offer him severance pay if he resigned. Well how much severance pay did this board of a financially strained agency offer to pay him to go away quietly?

YVHA should release their executive session minutes or watch yet more of taxpayer dollars be wasted.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

And reading the YVHA board minutes convinces me this board is still so inept that it should be abolished.

Reading the board's comments on the logic behind the land purchase that has since ruined the agency's finances just demonstrates how absolutely clueless they were when they bought and how clueless they still are.

Their fundamental problem then that continues to this day is that they consider themselves a real estate development outfit. The big problem with being a real estate development company is that it has big risks of the market changing between land purchase and selling completed units.

The private sector deals with those risks by letting overextended real estate developers to go bankrupt and lose property to foreclosure. When the real estate development company is a public sector agency like YVHA then it doesn't go bankrupt. It just keeps taking taxpayer dollars to pay on the debt for the failed development and remains a financially crippled agency.

What YVHA refuses to recognize is that successful housing agencies do not view themselves as developers, but more as bankers with a stable source of funds. So while YVHA cannot completely isolate themselves from market risk, they can limit their risks. So instead of being a high flying real estate developer that crashes and burns when the market changes, they can be loaning money to home buyers to help them into a house. And if the market changes then those loans lose value, but it doesn't stop YVHA from making more loans next year (that are expected to perform better).

If YVHA views themselves as bankers and not as developers then they are willing to buy completed projects with good cash flow. So a developer could build with the expectation of cashing out by selling a project to YVHA, but then the developer is taking the big risks not YVHA.

I cannot believe that after all on Wall Street from the crash and the various scandals since then that YVHA has still learned nothing about risk management.

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mark hartless 1 year, 7 months ago

You can't believe it??? Really? I can't believe you, or anyone else would expect anything else. Housing, airlines, you name it, we gotta get some quasi-government authority involved. And when all the cooks ruin the stew people gasp with surprise and they say "I can't believe it..."

You guys are hillarious.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Mark, For YVHA it was hardly surprising that they jumped onto the bandwagon during the boom. But it is surprising to me that after they've ruined their finances that even with 20-20 hindsight that they say they made the right decisions.

Normally after a catastrophic failure there is some analysis of what went wrong to at least not make the same mistakes again.

Instead, like a compulsive gambler, they remember their lucky winnings as due to skill (Fox Creek which made money) and view losses as fluke events. While anyone looking at the situation would see that continually betting the farm will eventually lead to disaster because one of those times the bet will go wrong.

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mark hartless 1 year, 7 months ago

In the broader picture how does that differ from anything else? It doesn't.

Again and again this societys pavlovian response to any inconvenience of life is run to government for a "cure". Yet almost without exception society embraces governments "cure" only to find again and again that the "cure" is worse than the disease.

It's true of YVHA. It's true of the airline tax. It's true of the national financial crisis.

We expect government to manage the economy or portions of it. How stupid is that?

To me it's akin to asking government to manage the fall colors, or snowpack, or weather... Which, to sane people, would funny if not for the fact that government IS actually presuming to control global atmospheric conditions.

I find it all somewhat insane, right down to a group that presumes to provide cheap housing in a WORLD-CLASS SKI TOWN. Here's a news flash: Sane people don't look for cheap housing in a WORLD-CLASS SKI TOWN.

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." --Euripides

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Mark, Well, the government cure for a river catching fire is certainly less worse than the disease. Clean water is generally considered to have saved money because the water can now be used downstream for drinking and ag. So government addressing problems is not automatically a bad thing.

A world class ski resort needs employees at the ski resort, at bars, restaurants, taxi drivers and so on the provide all of the amenities of a world class ski resort. So it is not totally insane for government to be concerned of the availability of workforce housing.

As a government agency, YVHA has access to lower cost loans than the private sector and so can buy at a lower carrying cost and so can buy rental properties and generate sufficient cash flow at lower rents than the private sector. Thus, YVHA can be a minor player in the local real estate market and be providing lower cost workforce housing than the private sector. YVHA can be a helpful nonprofit business for keeping this a world class ski resort.

But YVHA has got this philosophy that their mission is to develop property. And thus the circumstances that has currently ruined their financial situation is not viewed as the inevitable result of taking on development risks, but as being impossible to predict. When the bust of a resort real estate is actually more like earthquakes in coastal California, - impossible to predict which year, but known to eventually occur.

Anyway, this firing of George Krawzoff is going to be rip open YVHA board. First, what sort of board holds a meeting that discusses various options for the property with their director then goes into executive session for a personnel review and then fires him? Second, and fires him in a secret vote? Third, offers him an undisclosed severance package if he resigns instead of being fired?

The minutes and audio of that executive session is not going to take long before they are made public.

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mark hartless 1 year, 7 months ago

Yes it is insane for government to be concerned with providing bartenders and taxi drivers.

There were bartenders and taxi drivers all over the world long before government decided to "provide" them.

The free market provided them.

Mal-contents just didn't like the price. But those with any real vision see that government-provided bartenders and taxi-drivers have an even higher price.

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Bob Schneider 1 year, 7 months ago

I come down on the side of Scott's remarks regarding the YVHA being lucky in the best real estate market I've seen in my 40+ years in the development business. I made 5-6 attempts to get inside that group over the last 6-7 years, including trying to get on the board last year. My idea was to give them some access to my experiences since I've been thru 2 downturns, the inflationary bubble of the 70's and the S&L bust in the 80's. It doesn't take a genius to see that the last boom wouldn't last forever but experience can help predict closer to the bust than non-experience. So now they face a loss of maybe $1,500,000 if they pay off the loan and include the $700,000 in interest and a $22,000 principal payment, At the last public meeting I asked if the City & County were liable if they defaulted. Nancy Stahoviak said "No, but there could be 'perceived' liability". My impression from the meeting is that no one had talked to the lender; this loan was funded in 2006 !!! By the way it's due at the end of 2013. No way to get even in that time frame. They were talking at that meeting about trying to find a joint venture partner or a trade. How do you do that when you have a negative equity of perhaps $1,500,000 [including interest paid]? Obviously there was no one there who understood that aspect; or at best they were silent. I have a copy of the statement that George read to the SBCC; it follows in part:

"Please ask the YVHA Board to explain to you and to the citizens of the Yampa Valley why it was necessary to fire me after three months employment at the YVHA. I spent long hours doing everything I could to succeed. When I identified discrepancies in the YVHA books, I received no thanks for my efforts. On the contrary, President Lowe and Treasurer Catherine Carson seemed determined to hound and mistreat me. On Friday July 6th, Ms. Carson presented a spreadsheet to me and President Lowe accusing me of errors in YVHA tenant accounts of over $20,000. This spreadsheet was false, my accounting was correct, as auditor Chris Catterson confirmed on July 10th, but Mr. Lowe and Ms. Carson remained determined to fire me on July 12th." This was provided by the Pilot. It does NOT appear in SBCC's minutes online; only a reference to his appearing and asking for his job back. The long and short ? An authority like this does NOT belong in a complicated business of real estate development !! I'll post George's letter in it's entirety if anyone wants it.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Bob, Since you did the work to get his letter then please post it unless all you have is a paper copy and would need to type it in.

It might be worth submitting George's letter as a letter to the editor with a short introduction that these issues concern you and could YVHA please answer the questions.

Looks like there are two versions of their key financial spreadsheet and their auditor says one is correct. Since both have been shared with the YVHA board then both should not have any tenant confidential info and should be publicly available documents.

Also, has anyone requested a copy of YVHA's minutes and audio recording of their July 12th executive session? Seems to me that YVHA's own statement acknowledges the decision to fire George was made during executive session. And thus that discussion and that decision is of public interest and so the those minutes and audio must be released.

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Bob Schneider 1 year, 7 months ago

I tried this 2 days ago so here goes again

August 7, 2012 Dear Council President Kounovsky and the Steamboat Springs City Council, Thank you for hearing my comments tonight. My name is George Krawzoff. Many of you know me because I was your Transportation Services Director from 1996 until 2007. Before that, I was with Snowmass Village for 13 years. I’ve served on the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners and founded the Basalt Children’s Recreation Foundation. I have served as Chairperson of the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies and was appointed to the Colorado Department of Transportation Commission by Governor Ritter. Last April 16th, I became the Executive Director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. On July 12th, the YVHA convened an executive session to discuss my job performance. I was not allowed to participate. Following that executive session, I was fired by YVHA President Richard Lowe. I do not understand why. I have received nothing in writing from the YVHA and the YVHA has made no public announcement regarding my firing. The YVHA is formed by City and County IGA and relies on your combined appropriation of $168,000 annually to operate. The YVHA also receives federal funds and acts as an agent of the federal government. The YVHA has an obligation to operate with transparency and accountability. Please ask the YVHA Board to explain to you and to the citizens of the Yampa Valley why it was necessary to fire me after three months employment at the YVHA. I spent long hours doing everything I could to succeed. When I identified discrepancies in the YVHA books, I received no thanks for my efforts. On the contrary, President Lowe and Treasurer Catherine Carson seemed determined to hound and mistreat me. On Friday July 6th, Ms. Carson presented a spreadsheet to me and President Lowe accusing me of errors in YVHA tenant accounts of over $20,000. This spreadsheet was false, my accounting was correct, as auditor Chris Catterson confirmed on July 10th, but Mr. Lowe and Ms. Carson remained determined to fire me on July 12th. Please demand an explanation from President Lowe. Once you have the facts, please ask President Lowe to apologize, to issue my pay since July 12 and to reinstate me as YVHA Executive Director. I was doing a great job and will happily continue to do so. If I am not allowed to, I will seek every remedy available in law and in public opinion. Please direct your staff to discuss this situation with me and to help me find a remedy. Thank you, George Krawzoff 1200 Manitou Avenue Steamboat Springs, CO 80487 970-870-6278, gkrawzoff@yahoo.com

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Bob Schneider 1 year, 7 months ago

I talked with Michael Schrantz yesterday at the Pilot and asked if they were looking at this story strictly from the firing of Mr. Krawzoff. He assured me that they were looking at this at the editorial board level and that would include the allegations made by Mr. Krawzoff. Their timing would be somewhat restricted due to legal considerations; he promised to keep me informed. They have asked the Authority board to "waive" the 90 day rule that evidently applies to the time limit for the Authority to maintain copies of meetings; exactly what limits to what type of meetings, I am not sure. He said that they would interview the auditor to whom Mr Krawzoff refers. Overall, I was pleased with the level of interest he expressed on behalf of the Pilot. We should all stay tuned; I would not like to see this get lost since they have leveraged a quasi-government entity into a money losing proposition that disproportionately effects those they were supposed to help. Think Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Not good. Note that approximately $120,000/yr of the $168,000/yr, in total, given to the Authority by the City and County is spent on interest on the loan which is currently at least $500,000 "underwater".

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Rob, I think 90 days is the minimum length of time that a public board is required to keep the audio of a meeting if the meeting was recorded.

And from YVHA's meeting minutes, they discussed that the balloon payment has already come due,but the bank allowed YVHA to extend the deadline to end of 2013. I think bank is generally pretty happy extending the balloon due date in this low interest rate environment.

Just think the amount of housing that they could have acquired with $120K a year. They could have been spending money on down payments and generating positive cash flow from the rents. The could have been increasing their annual income by $20+K a year if they had not destroyed their financial situation on that reckless purchase.

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Bob Schneider 1 year, 7 months ago

When interviewing for the board position I was asked about how they could create cash flow. I said I thought the second mortgage scenario could work if properly done. Now I wonder.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Rob, I think second mortgage program should be viewed as an expense that has a decent chance of getting their money back to roll over in additional mortgages. But it is hard to run as a source of cash flows. If they budget some amount each year for down payment assistance then it is a reasonable way to help some home buyers.

The part of their operations that I think is worth reviewing is that apparently existing properties (Hillside, trailer park) are each operated (ie rent charged) to have neutral cash flow. Seems to me that it makes more sense to pick some amount less than market rent and charge that. And if that means that the properties generate cash flow then great and the money can be used to help others.

BTW, Elk River is not the only property they've bought that is underwater. They own lots in Sierra View that are worth half of what they paid. Since those were not that expensive there are not big loan payments that cripple their finances. Another way to describe their huge mistake which calls for a fundamental restructuring of YVHA is that as a government agency in it for the long term then they need to be dollar cost averaging by buying some properties every year and not trying to outsmart the market hoping that prices will continue to increase by making a big purchase without the cashflow to cover the mortgage and instead be making loan payments for years instead of additional purchases.

If you read through the minutes of July 12 then you can get a better idea of how far Elk River parcel is underwater. They have an offer for part of it. If you are familiar with the parcel and have an idea of what the portion without an offer is worth then you can say how far it is underwater. Minutes say they actually have two offers, but one is really to be a joint venture with YVHA including using YVHA for financing which is not an option so it is not a relevant offer.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Rob, I also think that deed restrictions and other attempts to control the future prices is extremely difficult to do. It is very hard to come up with rules that work well in up, down or flat markets and do not create undesirable incentives for the property owner.

For instance, deed restrictions that limit appreciation in an up market create the incentive for the property owner to spend nothing on maintenance prior to selling because the seller is going to get max allowed price regardless.

Various income restrictions can allow people with currently low income but in a situation likely to soon make big money to qualify over long term residents making more, but unlikely to see big changes in income. So the income restricted house was bought by an intern that is now a well paid doctor.

Habitat for Humanity had deed restrictions that required people own it for several years or had to return money and so they were seeing situations where people were in a house they didn't want to live in, but had to stay for a few years until the could afford to sell. They had cases wear owner had a stroke and stayed living in the house since too much money would have been forfeit if she moved to live with family. Or had a family where one spouse took a better job in another city and was living there alone while other spouse and kids remained in house for a year until deed restriction expired.

There are good reasons that Federal government got out of the business of building housing projects. What might appear to be working in the short term also creates bad incentives for the longer term. So now the government programs are much more focused on providing lower cost loans for qualifying projects.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 7 months ago

I always liked George Krawzoff. Sorry to read about his firing. At the same time, I also have high opinions of the YVHA board members.

Scott, Your first post and then one paragraph of your second post appraise the situation well. George is unlikely to return to YVHA and this is really about the YVHA accounts being in order, or not being in order. John St Pierre also has it right - we need that answered before making judgments.

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Bob Schneider 1 year, 7 months ago

I have not been a fan of deed restrictions for all and more of the reasons you mention. I'm unaware of YVHA's role in that. A down payment/second mortgage program would yield market interest rates to offer a chance of ongoing cash flow. The risk is having to take over payments on a first mortgage and for that reason I'm skeptical of an organization like this watching their "downside". To be run properly it needs to be run by people versed in the business. Since the real estate market is so depressed I would think someone who is competent in this field could be found; at least until the next boom. Overall I wonder if this approach of setting up an organization is truly workable in the long run. It needs attention from experts in the field every day all day and they are hard to find. I'm beginning to think tha SBS would be better off using simpler ways although I haven't thought about it long enough to have any concrete ideas. Tax policies ? Redevelopment areas for lost cost housing? I'd love to hear some ideas from all

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Steve, I'd gain respect for the YVHA board if they were to recognize the problems with the executive session and release those minutes. They've acknowledged that George was fired on July 12th and that did not happen in the public session. They've also acknowledged the legality issue of firing George in executive session when they called a special meeting to properly fire him.

Board members have to know that the minutes and audio of that executive session is going to become public. Looks to me that executive session is purely at the discretion of the board and the board can decide to make it public.

Since YVHA acknowledges firing George in executive session and that is not allowed then they have no grounds to claim confidentiality. All they can do is run their costs paying their lawyer and the other side's lawyer when they lose in court.

http://coloradoindependent.com/36942/judge-colorado%E2%80%99s-top-ethics-panel-broke-open-meetings-law

The statutes state: All meetings of a quorum or three or more members of any
local public body, whichever is fewer, at which any public
business is discussed or at which any formal action may be
taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.

Since they took formal action to offer George a severance package if he resigned or fire him then that was supposed to be a public meeting. Public meeting has public minutes and audio.

Even if a board takes no formal action during an
executive session and formally adopts a decision in a public meeting, a court may find it has violated
the Open Meetings Law if there is any indication
that the board arrived at the decision during the
executive session and subsequently “rubber
stamped” that decision in public. Indications of
“rubber stamping” include: ● Discussion during an executive session of matters that are normally discussed and acted upon during public meetings. ● Failure during the public meeting to present the “underlying pros and cons” of a formal action, i.e, providing “only cursory treatment” of an issue before putting the matter to a final vote. ● Failure to give the public the benefit of the motivations and policy arguments which lead to the final decision.

I believe the "any indication" standard is abundantly satisfied by the Board's statement and George's statement saying he was fired that night.

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Bob Schneider 1 year, 7 months ago

sorry about the typo "lost cost housing" instead of low cost

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Steve, I don't think running a housing agency takes exceptional expertise. The primary month to month business is standard property management.

The various programs including acquisitions should have guidelines developed by experts. Though, since there are other housing agencies far better financed with much greater experts then YVHA should not be the first developing a program, but should be looking to emulate programs that have been proven effective elsewhere.

The key to a housing agency seems to be like a banker and stay modest and operating cautiously because one bad deal wipes out the profits of 20 good deals.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

BTW, I have an open records request to YVHA asking for the minutes and audio of the July 12th executive session. Should get an answer in a few days.

If it is declined then I'd be tempted to take them to court myself because from looking at other cases it looks like the filings are pretty simple and YVHA has to pay if they lose.

One consistent theme from various court decisions is that they have no sympathy for government boards failing to follow the law. There is the consist observation that the COML expects meetings to be public except for a few topics and executive session must be entered following the rules. The courts consistently have rejected arguments that the improper executive session included portions that should be kept confidential and instead have ruled that by blowing the rules then the whole thing including topics normally covered by attorney client privilege become public.

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Bob Schneider 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm glad to hear you are following this up in that aspect. Sounds like the law is fairly clear.

With regard to the need of experts, I think when orgs such as this get into the development business it definitely needs that sort of expertise. The development side of the real estate business is the most profitable but also that with the greatest risk; no surprise there.There are plenty of experienced developers who are no longer around because of misjudgements of the depth and length of this last market. And, as in every boom, there are folks who were are in for the first time and are carried along. Most generally get culled when the downturn hits. It happens every time. This time the boom was the best and longest and the bust worse than I've ever seen.There were those who knew this couldn't last and got out because they had the experience to foresee it. Not all of them,of course, but my point is that you have practically no chance to pick your proper entrance and exit without having lived in that environment for a lengthy period of time and preferably have survived a bust. That's the great educator. Experience isn't the "end all" of the business but crucial for success.

The real problem would be to get the level of expertise necessary given the budget that is available to the YVHA. I think it would likely take their entire income from the City and County to achieve that and ,even then, that person would be looking over his/her shoulder for a development opportunity. I believe the developer that built the affordable housing south of town took that route; I'm sure he worked for the authority but I don't know in what capacity. Even the program of granting money for downpayments/2nd mortgages requires higher than normal capacity of knowledge in that field from its director. If the authority sticks to running properties like Fish Creek Trailer Park then you need only management experience which is less demanding and therefore less expensive and obviously less risky. Too bad the YVHA didn't have enough experience to know its limits.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Bob, I'd suggest that among YVHA's top priorities is to limit risks so that nothing being attempted could ever threaten existing projects or their future ability to operate. Thus, the risk of doing development with an inhouse general contractor is simply too great. If the general contractor incorrectly estimates then YVHA is taking all the risks.

YVHA should be much more like the banker that has a construction loan to a general contractor and is thus releasing money to pay for verified milestones.

And I'd budget the down payments as an expense expecting to never get the money back and then be happily surprised when some is returned.

YVHA as a government agency simply should not be taking the risks of development and hoping for big profits if they hit it right and going bankrupt if getting it dead wrong. A private general contractor can accept the risks of going bankrupt with personal assets separate from the business and can emerge from bankruptcy with the skills to put together another profitable deal. YVHA as a government cannot so easily go bankrupt and will instead continue to operate in a crippled form until it finally pays off it's debts. Which for YVHA could easily be another 10 years because of the Elk River fiasco.

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Bob Schneider 1 year, 7 months ago

Amen----It will be interesting to see how the City, County & YVHA handle this debt.....will the City & County step up and pay it off because of "perceived" liability?...they seem to be headed in that direction since it appears no attempt was made to get out of the obligation so far....at least 2 board members were definitely against defaulting at the last public meeting. They said that YVHA's reputation would suffer and they would never be able to borrow money again. The inability to borrow would be a good thing in my view for reasons that are now obvious.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Rob, Except YVHA can look towards the trailer park and apts on Tamarack as their best moves as purchases that generate the money to pay the loans and modest improvements. The key for those purchases is that they generated cash flow from day one and rent in that range has not decreased much during previous economic downturns. So purchases had low risk.

Debt is not that bad when it is being used to generate positive cash flow.

Debt is a disaster when used to make a speculative purchase with no cash flow that cannot be quickly profitably turned over.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Just got an answer from YVHA.

I sent them: I am requesting the minutes and audio of the July 12th executive session regarding the job performance of executive director Mr Krawzof

And so they sent me back the minutes of the public session! Oh well, I think that is just digging their hole deeper because the COML states the public agency is supposed to make good effort to give what is requested and is not supposed to play games not returning or denying what was requested.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

For those that like to read the law: that no adoption of any proposed policy, position, resolution, rule, regulation, or formal action, except the review, approval, and amendment of the minutes of an executive session recorded pursuant to subparagraph (II) of paragraph (d.5) of subsection (2) of this section, shall occur at any executive session that is not open to the public:

Annotations (ie how courts have interpreted the laws):

Teacher hiring and firing decisions are formal decisions, and, therefore, a firing decision by a school board that is made during an executive session as described in § 22-32-108 is invalid. Barbour v. Hanover Sch. Dist. No. 28, 148 P.3d 268 (Colo. App. 2006), aff'd in part and rev'd in part on other grounds, 171 P.3d 223 (Colo. 2007).

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

And it appears that YVHA really messed up when deciding to fire George while in executive session. First, since that is not allowed in executive session then it didn't take effect and so George was not officially fired until Aug 9th meeting. Second, because firing the executive director and offering a severance package if he'd resign was not the reasons given for entering executive session then the executive session was improper and the minutes and audio will become public.

At least that is what I expect will happen.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Well, my request for minutes and audio from the executive session where they decided to offer George a severance package if he resigned or fire him if he didn't, was denied.

And unlike other government boards which will use words to say a request was denied, This one only cited where in the law the reason could be found.

ie: Your request is denied under C.R.S 24-6-402(2)(d.5)(II)(d)

Oh well, that is our YVHA Board funded by our SB City County and Routt County Commissioners. Apparently, this is a legal game for them wasting our tax dollars on legal fees and the COML/CORA laws also require the government board to pay the legal fees of the other side. Remember the $90K spent by the Steamboat School Board in their lost cause to keep their messed up executive session confidential? Well, $90K is 66% of YVHA annual budget.

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Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 7 months ago

"I always liked George Krawzoff. Sorry to read about his firing. At the same time, I also have high opinions of the YVHA board members."

Yeah. I met George before 1996, some YVTC (defunct) thing related to bringing optical fiber into the valley via US40, blue-plate lunch at the brewery (defunct) IIRC... Was pleased when he was hired by the City, etc. This is ugly.

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Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 7 months ago

"And unlike other government boards which will use words to say a request was denied, This one only cited where in the law the reason could be found."

Who can blame them for that response? The law you and they both cite, says that a court must determine an impropriety occurred before the record you sought can be opened for public inspection. So clearly, your effort to get this record based on your allegations was just wasting their time. Both times. And our tax dollars, thanks, Scott.

"At least that is what I expect will happen."

Only if someone sues, apparently.

"If it is declined then I'd be tempted to take them to court myself because from looking at other cases it looks like the filings are pretty simple and YVHA has to pay if they lose."

Well, then, **** or get off the pot. You have your interpretation of the law, they have theirs. I don't trust your legal expertise, Scott. I do respect that of Mr. Merrill, which I encountered first-hand back when I got off the pot and filed an antitrust lawsuit against the County. They addressed my concerns immediately and the suit was duly dismissed, as was IT Boss Fawcett. One citizen can make a difference.

But not by whining about it online or in an op-ed, not on something like this. I'm sure you could find the $5K or so to retain competent counsel, and see what happens when you file the lawsuit required to "discover" the records you seek. But, the precedents you cite don't match this case -- the later meeting to properly sack Mr. Krawzoff smacks of John Merrill's competent advice, and I'm sure he knows more law than you do, particularly where issues like COML are concerned.

Like it or not, that's how our system works. The "discovery" in my lawsuit was all it took to effect change, as it was rather damning. But, putting a stop to the shenanigans mooted the issue, costing me around $7,500 in exchange for satisfaction (in lieu of compensation), the cost of protecting my business from ill-advised government competition. Since, obviously, you are concerned about this issue -- and you're so dead-certain that you're right and you'll be reimbursed -- it's incumbent on you to do something about it. And by that, I don't mean Internet comments.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

What does John Merrill have to do with advising YVHA? He is not on their board and is not their lawyer. No one's lawyer gives advice purely on the facts of the case, but also on the challenges of the other side prevailing in court. It is common enough to have a situation where the lawyer believes they could lose in court, but until the case is filed and exposes the legal liability then the legal advice is not going to be to concede to everyone on every legal liability.

As for current status, I have submitted a more specific open records request and I still awaiting their official reply. If it is denied then I will have a bit of work to do of writing up the legal complaint, I'll have to notify YVHA of the intent to sue and giving them several days to reply.

One source of facts will be the minutes of the August 9th meeting which is not considered factual until the YVHA board approves it later this week. So it will take weeks not days before this would be scheduled in court.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

My CORA request for the portions of the July 12th meeting discussion and vote of terminating Mr Krawzoff and the discussion and vote on the offered severance package has been denied. The YVHA's own statement acknowledges those happened July 12th and their own meeting minutes indicate they did not occur during public session.

I went to Thursday's YVHA Board meeting and spoke during public comment. I was the only member of the public there. I said their July 12th firing of Mr Krawzoff and the YVHA's August 9th letter creates questions that should be answered. It states that a severance package was offered, but the details of that package have not been released. The public does not know how the board members voted on immediately terminating Mr Krawzoff or the severance package. There is no public record of a discussion or vote on why YVHA was willing to offer a severance package to someone they had decided was to be immediately terminated.

And their only response was to thank me for my comments. So it is acceptable to the YVHA board that they will not answer questions regarding the severance package. They will not answer questions regarding whether they voted on July 12 to terminate Mr Krawzoff and they will not release the board's vote. They have accepted that they made policy decisions in executive session and have no plans or desires to correct the public record by now answering questions regarding what they decided and how they voted.

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