Top Fort Collins City Council Members Face Ethics Complaint
Two Fort Collins residents have filed a complaint alleging Mayor Wade Troxell and Mayor Pro Tem Kristin Stephens unethically participated in a Nov. 5 City Council vote involving the site of the former Hughes Stadium.
The complaint claims both have personal and financial interests in seeing the approximately 160-acre site developed. Troxell and Stephens are employees of Colorado State University.
Stephens, elected in 2015, told KUNC she stands by her decision to participate in the vote.
“I want to ensure people that I always act ethically and I try to do my best,” she said.
Troxell could not be reached for comment by deadline.
Nick Frey, a complainant who opposes development of the site, said Troxell and Stephens should have recused themselves from the decision making process due to their employment with the university.
“I don’t think we can have a vote on something this critical to the community of Fort Collins that might have a shadow cast or doubt based on what reasonable people might think is a conflict of interest,” Frey said. “I think it warrants a review in an official manner.”
The land in question is owned by CSU, which is in the process of selling it to the Lennar Corp., a national home developer. Over the summer, the council began the process to transfer the land for that use and, on Nov. 5, Troxell and Stephens joined two other council members in a 4-3 vote to approve new zoning.
At that meeting, Troxell and Stephens said they did not believe their employment with the university was a conflict of interest.
“I do not have any financial (stake) to my benefit or detriment on this particular item,” said Troxell. “This is actually at the system level of Colorado State University and I am in no way involved with anything at the system level and those discussions at the Board of Governors.”
Troxell is currently serving his third term as mayor of Fort Collins.
In 2014, when the council was dealing with another stadium issue, Troxell said he asked for an advisory opinion from the city’s Ethics Review Board. The board, he said, looked at “basically the same information that is pertinent to the (Nov. 5 rezoning) item.”
“The council adopted a resolution of the opinion that there was not a conflict for me to participate in these discussions,” he said.
Stephens said she also reviewed the city’s rules of conduct before voting.
“I have neither a financial or personal interest and I feel I can give an unbiased opinion on this issue,” Stephens said.
On Friday, Stephens said her decision was driven by a desire to create more affordable housing in the city.
Critics of developing the site call it a "crown jewel" that should remain untouched due to its proximity to nearby natural areas.
The city’s ethics board must now meet within 30 days to consider the complaint’s validity, according to city rules.
Both Troxell and Stephens also sit on the ethics board. An alternate review board will be created to review the complaint, comprised of other city council members, according to the city clerk's office.
A date has not yet been set for the hearing.
Meanwhile, a second reading of the Hughes site rezoning is slated for Nov. 19.
This story will be updated.