Council approves LIFT appointments

Process shadowed by controversy over vacancies

Posted 2/9/18

City council approved three new members to the board of Littleton Invests for Tomorrow, or LIFT, the city's urban renewal board, and reappointed two other members at their Feb. 6 meeting. The new …

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Council approves LIFT appointments

Process shadowed by controversy over vacancies

Posted

City council approved three new members to the board of Littleton Invests for Tomorrow, or LIFT, the city's urban renewal board, and reappointed two other members at their Feb. 6 meeting.

The new appointments are Jack Rychesky, whose term ends in 2021, and Cindy Christensen and Joseph Orrino, whose terms end in 2020. Kevin Seiler and Nicholas Millar both saw their seats on the board renewed, with their new terms ending in 2023.

“I hope the LIFT board gets to work and they can get some sort of proposal from property owners in Columbine Square and can do something positive for the community,” said City Councilmember Kyle Schlachter, who recently stepped down as a member of the board.

Columbine Square is a long-vacant shopping center in west Littleton and the city's final remaining urban renewal district.

The number of vacancies on the board had been a matter of contention between the board and city council in recent weeks.

Two board members, Kyle Schlachter and Karina Elrod, were elected to city council in November. Elrod stepped down from LIFT shortly after the election, but Schlachter remained.

Schlachter said he remained on the board with the approval of City Attorney Steve Kemp because he was the board's signatory, and didn't want to leave the board without a member who could sign checks and documents.

Board member Ryan Toole announced his resignation from the board late last year, bringing the number of vacancies to three in anticipation of Schlachter's resignation. Schlachter resigned from the board shortly before interviews for new members began in late January.

Board member Carol Brzeczek told city council at their Dec. 19 meeting that the board believed there might be as many as five vacancies, because some members' terms may have been improperly set at some point in the past, throwing off the end dates of current members' terms. Brzeczek said the board ought to reconstruct its membership from its beginnings as the Riverfront Authority in 1980 to determine the validity of current members' terms.

City council agreed at the meeting to an expedited search process for new members with a goal of appointing them by early February.

City Councilmember Carol Fey introduced an amendment to the motion for an expedited search process, “to require that interviews do not begin until Council has received a recommendation from the LIFT Board on the exact number of vacancies as the LIFT Board understands it, and that the interview process is open to the public.” The amendment was approved 4-3.

The reconstruction of the board's membership, though, came from City Clerk Wendy Heffner, who confirmed the five vacancies.

The discrepancy didn't sit well with resident Linda Knufinke, who at the Feb. 6 city council meeting called the discrepancy a “disturbing incident.”

“Maybe if it were written in Russian, it would have been easier to understand,” Knufinke said, placing a Russian translation of the amendment's text on the overhead projector at the speaker's dais.

“You've heard of fake news, and now we have fake laws,” Knufinke said.

Heffner said later by email that she felt the council “followed the spirit of the motion.”

Mayor Debbie Brinkman said she felt satisfied with the end result of the process.

“At the end of the day, we wanted to make sure terms are correct, they are, and we wanted to make sure it was a public process, and it was,” Brinkman said.

Fey said the whole process became more difficult than necessary.

“It feels like a tempest in a teapot,” Fey said. “We got to the right place, but we made it really hard to get there.”

City Manager Mark Relph and City Attorney Steve Kemp did not respond to requests for comment.

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