Castle Rock citizens were deceived! I know at least eight Castle Rock resident petition circulators who are more than displeased that this referendum was used to dupe Castle Rock voters into signing so petitioners, with WLD, could play “Let’s Make a Deal”. Now, we must face those we inadvertently misled. Some of us did so at the June 2 town council meeting; the petitioners and WLD did not. Please know this: as petition circulators, we were deceived as well.
“Summary of Ordinance No. 2015-09, which is the subject of this referendum petition”. Meyer responded to Mayor Donahue’s April 21st question “what are you hoping to accomplish now with the referendum? What’s the whole purpose of this now?” with “My main concern with the referendum is to get people to become more empowered in making decisions in their community; that is the biggest thing.” (http://castlerock-co.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=287 at 00:55:54) Withdrawing the petition via the agreement with Alberta Development Partners, LLC was dishonest to those who circulated the petition, speaking to the summary honestly. For starters, leadership and the petitioners practically chanted “No blood money“, “no deal“, and “you can’t put a price on democracy” in response to a March 13 offer by Alberta in exchange to drop the restraining order perfected that day. (As it turns out, democracy does have a price!) As part of that deal, on March 16 Alberta agreed to pay for relocation of the surviving Promenade prairie dogs, prairie dogs at The Rock Church, and reimburse WLD for court costs and attorney fees (see financial concerns below).
“The second offer was $160,000 to purchase land or start a prairie dog education center and $15,000 to establish a fund for future rescue operations. This offer was refused by activists, who chose to pursue a referendum and recall election. We recommended they take the offer, but wish them well in their chosen pursuits.“- Bold Visions Conservation (http://www.bvconservation.org/prairie-dogs.html)
My second day of circulating, I emailed Brian Ertz, President of WLD, signatures 61-90. His response: “This is wonderful !!! Keep it up !!” Exhausted and sunburned, I reply “I am fried! ;)” to which Ertz responded ” That burn you feel is what democracy looks like ;)” Is it any wonder that I am angry that I defended this petition regarding zoning only to find that I with another 3000 Castle Rock citizens will not have that democratic voice? We were pawns. Apparently, an earlier petition for prairie dogs circulated and failed. I never circulated or signed a petition about “prairie dogs” because I read what I sign! This one was about zoning! During the weeks I gathered signatures, many asked “is this about prairie dogs?“; I replied “no“, displaying the petition for their review. By accepting this deal, the petitioners and WLD made liars out of us. Add on the daily harassment and hassle by blockers hired by Alberta, about whom Ertz expressed jubilation! It is one thing to conceptualize that “the man” is worried; it is another to live with the results of that concern i.e. people stalking you, shoving flyers in your face, and telling citizens of your own town that you are lying for weeks! Talk about strength and character building!
For me, the worst part of this entire experience is the lack of integrity and manipulation of the representatives of WLD, specifically Meyer. Ertz repeatedly and vocally maintained that his position was advisory; he wanted to see this petition question rescinded or on a ballot, defending himself vehemently and excessively against those whom he believed to question his motives… until June 2. Ertz stated, “Wildlands did not make the call, but we respect and support the call that was made by the petitioners when they decided to withdraw the question. I’m certainly satisfied with the decision that we made. Personally, I think the petitioners made the right decision. This is a profound opportunity for prairie dogs and prairie ecosystems.” So which is it Mr. Ertz? Did the petitioners or “we“,
WLD and/or the petitioners, make the decision? Was there a difference?
On June 2 after the agreement leaked, Meyer wrote, ” The referendum was about zoning and would not have protected any land or life at the Promenade site. The mall was going in regardless, and we were assured of that. If it was rescinded, the mall would have been built. The reason I created this group and the reason I fought so hard was to protect prairie dog’s [sic] and their habitat into the future. That has always been my goal and the goal of WLD. The referendum would not have saved any land and wouldn’t have secured the safe removal of the remaining prairie dogs. The dismissal secured benefits for prairie dog habitat and conservation within our community. A wildlife task force for Castle Rock will be established that will work with the council on future projects. Our goals of being better able to secure benefits for the living world have been met.” I spoke with council members including George Teal, who stated they had no plans to rescind. Mailed flyers and postings by Town of Castle Rock communications department to the public reinforced that conclusion, prevented by the agreement between Alberta, WLD, and the petitioners. It is nothing short of disingenuous…and corrupt. For the definition of “corrupt”, check Webster’s dictionary, as Ertz rudely suggested to me when I questioned use of the word by Ertz and Meyer, who repeatedly claimed corruption of Castle Rock’s council. “Doing things that are dishonest or illegal in order to make money or to gain or keep power“, “done or controlled by dishonest and immoral people“, “morally degenerate and perverted“, and “characterized by improper conduct (as bribery or selling of favors)“. It certainly applies to this situation; it applies to WLD, Ertz, and Meyer. Further, the word “bribe” that so offended Meyer and Ertz means “money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust; something that serves to induce or influence“. Keith Lattimore-Walsh and Linda Van Nostrand withdrew the validated petition based on a confidential agreement with Alberta. What influenced their judgment or conduct? Some sort of bribe, based on the above definition by Webster above and Meyer’s own statements.
I do not want anyone to think that I am not thrilled about the relocation of the surviving prairie dogs on site! I care about animals so am happy (and I also care about integrity and democracy). But withdrawing this petition was not necessary to save them. Peter Cudlip of Alberta stated at the April 28 council meeting “We are working with Growing Ideas to relocate the remaining prairie dogs on the site which are basically, from our estimate, are just a handful of prairie dogs. That process will start as early as tomorrow and will continue for probably for two or three to four weeks. They do have to get a permit from Colorado Parks and Wildlife so what we are talking about here tonight is dependent upon Colorado Parks and Wildlife granting that permit.” (http://castlerock-co.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=288 00:08:00) A goal of saving prairie dogs was granted. Meyer’s family’s property had been approved as a relocation site. It makes one wonder (and many do) what other “bribe” was offered to either the petitioners or WildLands Defense to “influence [their] judgment”. What more could they want? What more did they get?
Also, people dug burrows on that same property on May 31, two days before the agreement to withdraw the petition was finalized. Clearly, CPW approved the permit (or Meyer risked time and money with premature preparation). I have since learned CPW permits are public record and may be reviewed via Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). Anyone may request these documents from Manda Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Further, if saving prairie dogs was the priority, why were the ones in Terrain ignored? The Terrain issue was known to Meyer since October 2014 but not addressed until mere weeks ago. Also, why was the owner of a prairie dog inhabited 1000+ acres ignored? His calls and emails for help to humanely remove the prairie dogs from his land unreturned? Some speculate that advocacy of prairie dogs was not a motivator. On June 2, he interpreted, “It seems like this prairie dog issue is political. After the issue came up with the development up north, of which I am favor of, the folks that want to stop it request prairie dog issues to try to stop the whole development. Shortly after the issue came to light, I called them, emailed them, and told them I have over 1000 acres southwest of town full of prairie dogs which will soon be developed. I don’t want to see them destroyed; I want to see them taken away and their lives continued. But I received no response from them whatsoever. So, it’s political! They don’t really care about the prairie dogs; they care about stopping the development.”
WLD: You wanted to save life and land? Well, that is less likely in the long term because you picked the low hanging fruit that was offered for a quick resolution and whatever you could get. A charter petition could never happen now! It is easy to be happy with your decision to take a deal when you weren’t on the streets talking to people about the zoning petition or if you don’t live in Castle Rock because you don’t have to face them afterwards! While weighing the decision to take deal or not, you get to enjoy the pros from afar without facing the repercussions of the cons of that decision. I stood up at the June 2 council meeting to apologize for inadvertently lying to Castle Rock citizens. Where were Lattimore-Walsh, Van Nostrand, and Meyer? When will you apologize? Setting a precedent with this once-in-a-lifetime volunteer effort? No, this is not the first time a corporation has offered some sort of payoff and the so called “moral minority” accepted. Bribes have been offered and accepted for hundreds, if not thousands, of years!
Finally, I am curious: how was donated money spent? I was told that $1,500 went to Ira Bunch for petition training, database access, and recall research; about $500 paid for printing (59 copies of 87 pages x $0.10 = $513.30) and some clipboards, but what about the remaining $11,000+? Alberta settled “a payment of $15,000 (fifteen thousand dollars) to Wildlands for the attorney fees Wildlands incurred in reaching the Settlement Agreement” signed March 16. That attorney, Katie Fite, is a WLD board member. Ertz stated that Fite charged WLD $5,000 for which they were reimbursed $15,000., So an excess of $10,000 over her “fee” went to WLD? If so, add another $10,000 to the figures below. Also, at least three people sent checks directly to Ertz to support his efforts with WLD.
- Fund Wildlands Defense:$3,240 of $10,000 goal
- Castle Rock Referendum Petition: $1,600 of $5,000 goal
- Save the Castle Rock Prairie Dogs: $5,190 of $10,000 goal
- Save the Castle Rock Prairie Dogs: $3,779 of $4,964 goal
$13,809 raised of the $29,964 goal (plus $10,000 from the agreement with Alberta on March 16, 2015)
I asked Meyer, directly, how donated money was spent and was told ” it is none of your business “; additional comments by Meyer not be included in any publication due to vulgar language. But, it is my business, as one who did donate some and worked on this project. It is every United States citizen’s business since WildLands Defense is a 501(c)(3) (http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/Exemption-Requirements-Section-501(c)(3)-Organizations). Is anyone else curious? None was spent to relocate prairie dogs in Castle Rock since Alberta paid for that. Where did the money go? Think about this before you give WildLands Defense, Meyer, or Ertz another dime!