Resident drops ethics complaint against Steamboat Springs City Council president
Steamboat Springs — A Steamboat Springs resident who accused City Council President Walter Magill of corrupting and improperly influencing a variance hearing in January has dropped his code of ethics complaint against the elected official.
John de Wardt was seeking a variance to allow the deck on his home to encroach over a setback line.
But after hearing testimony from a neighbor, who opposed allowing de Wardt’s variance request, and Magill, whose surveying company staked out the lot line for the neighbor, the city’s Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to deny the variance request.
The denial went against the recommendation of city planning staff at the time.
De Wardt then filed a code of ethics complaint against Magill alleging that it was inappropriate for the elected official to have testified because as the president of the City Council, Magill helps to choose who sits on the Board of Adjustment.
De Wardt suggested Magill’s position as council president could have swayed the board to vote against his deck proposal.
De Wardt said in his three-page complaint it was a conflict of interest for Magill to testify and compared the council president to a “hired gun.”
“During his presentation to the BOA, Magill never disclosed his conflict of interest,” de Wardt wrote. “He made no attempt whatsoever to distinguish his role as a surveyor hired by the opponent to my variance request and his role as City Council President representing all citizens of Steamboat Springs, a role in which he and the Council appoint and fire the members of the Board of Adjustment.
Magill said Thursday, in hindsight, he should not have offered any testimony on the issue because of his role as council president.
“I recognize I shouldn’t have given testimony because I do select Board of Adjustment members,” Magill said. “I recognize the conflict there.”
But he did not agree with allegations he was there to try to improperly influence the Board of Adjustment. He said he believed he was just objectively answering questions during the hearing about a survey of the property.
While Magill did not directly tell the Board of Adjustment it should deny the variance request, he did say during his testimony that he thought there were other places de Wardt could extend his deck to without encroaching into the setback line.
Magill also suggested he thought it would be better if the encroaching deck was trimmed back 30 to 40 percent.
“He spoke against the recommendation of the City Planning Department to approve my variance,” de Wardt wrote in his complaint. “As such he corrupted the variance hearing and negatively impacted the rights I am afforded as a citizen of Steamboat Springs.”
The City Council was set to hear the ethics complaint against Magill on Tuesday, but it was withdrawn by de Wardt on Thursday afternoon.
De Wardt also dropped his planned appeal of the Board of Adjustment’s decision.
Steamboat Today obtained de Wardt’s withdrawn complaint through an open records request.
Asked Thursday why he decided to drop the complaint, de Wardt expressed frustration with the variance process.
“The stress of the variance process is having a detrimental impact on my wife’s and my health,” he said.
He declined to comment further.
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It is going to be a hot week in Steamboat Springs.