Jim Engelken: Apology to Hinsvark
August 19, 2015
I owe an apology to Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark.
On July 7, the day a continuation of a public hearing on Triple Crowns access to Emerald Park was supposed to occur, I went before City Council and criticized the city manager. Not only had the item been removed from the agenda, but a report on staffs negotiations with Triple Crown had been hidden in the city manager's report.
I made the assumption that these actions had been taken solely by the city manager. We now know, thanks to the Colorado Open Records Act, the efforts of the Steamboat Today and an article published on Aug. 13, that City Council President Bart Kounovsky had directed Ms. Hinsvark to remove the item from the agenda without the knowledge of the rest of City Council.
My criticism of Ms. Hinsvark was harsh. I accused her of overstepping her authority, of ignoring the direction of council and of intentionally trying to deceive the public. I accused her of insubordination. It never occurred to me that the city council president would have directed her to do these things and then sat quietly while she is being called out, essentially throwing her under the bus.
I was wrong. For that and my harsh words, I offer a sincere apology to Ms. Hinsvark.
However, many questions still remain.
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Who directed city staff to negotiate a new contract with Triple Crown in the first place? Who wrote a resolution approving the new contract and placed it on the council's consent agenda without council asking for either one? Do Mr. Kounovsky and Ms. Hinsvark understand that the city council president has no more decision-making power than any other council member?
Obviously, there is a lot going on behind closed doors.
The public process can be long and arduous. From a council member's perspective, you have to show patience. You occasionally have to listen to uninformed members of the public say goofy things. You also get to hear informed people offer constructive ideas and points of view that you may have overlooked. You should hear all sides of an issue.
In the end, the public process is not only the proper way to make decisions, it's the best way to make decisions. Apparently, there are members of the current City Council who just never figured this out.