Former Steamboat City Council President accused of trying to intimidate a fellow council member from speaking out on housing project
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Councilwoman Heather Sloop said Tuesday former Council President Walter Magill sent her an intimidating email while he was still serving that Sloop thinks was meant to prevent her from speaking out against a housing proposal Magill has a financial interest in.
Magill is the civil engineer for the proposed 86-unit Urban Street on the Mountain Project, which Sloop voted to table back in October after she raised questions about the road designs as well as other aspects of the project.
The day after the tabling motion, Magill, who had to recuse himself from the council deliberations due to his financial connection, sent Sloop an email accusing her of misrepresenting her civil engineer background while she was criticizing the Urban Street project.
Magill also said the proponents of the project were ready to confront Sloop about the alleged misrepresentation of her civil engineering credentials.
Magill specifically said Sloop needed to stop presenting herself as a civil engineer while on council when she was not licensed.
“As a licensed Civil Engineer, I have held my voice to avoid a confrontation or embarrassment for you during meetings,” Magill wrote in the email, which Sloop provided to the newspaper. “The applicant was ready to challenge the statement (that you are a civil engineer) last night and held back.”
Sloop responded with a photograph of her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering diploma from Ohio State University and said she has never claimed to have a professional engineers stamp as Magill alleged.
Sloop did note her background as the senior engineer for Routt County for 10 years and defended her understanding of civil engineering.
The councilwoman on Tuesday labeled Magill’s email as a “direct attack” on her that she thinks was an improper attempt from Magill to “intimidate her into silence” on the Urban Street project.
She also called the email an “ex parte” communication.
“The ex parte communication, I feel, was a direct attack,” Sloop said.
City Attorney Dan Foote said he had no comment Tuesday when asked whether he thought it was appropriate for Magill to send the email to Sloop while he had recused himself from the discussions about the housing project.
Magill, who stepped down from the council last week due to term limits, was present at Tuesday’s meeting to listen to the Urban Street deliberations.
He said he disagreed with Sloop’s view that the email was improper.
However, he did express regret that it was interpreted as an attack on her or a threat.
“It wasn’t meant as ex parte communication or a threat, it was more licensing matters to me,” Magill said.
He continued to express concern that Sloop was misrepresenting her civil engineer background.
“Don’t send an email when you’re angry,” Magill said as he expressed regret about how his email was interpreted. “Our whole project team was angry” that the council tabled the project.
The council on Tuesday approved the housing development after the housing plan was revised to include a new sidewalk and road designs, among other things.
Sloop stepped down from the second vote Tuesday because she said her business is currently bidding on other projects being planned by Jeremy MacGray, who is pursuing the Urban Street project.
She said that conflict of interest did not exist back when she voted to table the project in early October because the bids were submitted within the last two weeks.
Tuesday wasn’t the first time Magill has been accused of improperly trying to influence a city hearing.
Magill got slapped with an ethics complaint last year that stemmed from his participation in a Sept. 21 municipal court hearing in which four clients of Magill’s surveying and engineering company faced fines for using outdoor areas in the Captain Jack subdivision for storage without displaying the proper permits.
Some of the city’s municipal court clerks said they found Magill’s participation and conduct at this court hearing “intimidating” and inappropriate for a council member who helped appoint the municipal court judge every two years.
They also alleged Magill was trying to improperly influence the hearing and get a favorable resolution for his clients.
Foote concluded at the time that Magill’s participation in the hearing was inappropriate and threatened the independence of the municipal court.
Magill, who denied trying to influence the court proceedings, apologized to court clerks who found him intimidating and said he planned to never appear in council chambers again, unless it was for a council meeting.
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