Government & Politics  May 31, 2024

Ousted Windsor mayor mulls options after town board opts not to appeal

WINDSOR — Ousted as mayor of Windsor by a Weld County District Court ruling and rebuffed by the Windsor town board, Barry Wilson says he’d still like to appeal the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court but is discouraged by what it would cost.

“My attorneys say it could cost $10,000 to $20,000, and that’s mostly for prep work —  and all for a job that pays $12,000 a year,” Wilson told BizWest on Friday.

“I’m working on it, and trying to do some fundraising and get some other help, but it’s a lot of money,” he said. “If we can get a stay, I could be put in as acting mayor during the appeal.”

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After a two-hour executive session during a special meeting Wednesday, the town board voted unanimously against appealing Weld District Judge Shannon Lyons’ decision that ruled Wilson ineligible to serve as mayor because of term-limit provisions in Windsor’s town charter.

“It was odd,” Wilson said. “I had talked to at least three of the five board members, and they said they were going to appeal. And then they went into that executive session, and I was a little shocked that they went in the other direction. I thought they would protect people’s vote.”

Wilson, executive director of Poudre River Trail Corridor Inc., was elected to four-year terms on the Windsor Town Board in 2018 and 2022. Halfway through his second term, he decided to run for mayor this spring and defeated fellow town board member Jason Hallett, 4,176 votes to 3,622, in the April 2 municipal election.

However, town resident James Cosner on April 18 sued Wilson personally and Karen Frawley in her position as town clerk. Represented by Thomas “Trey” Rogers of the Denver-based Recht Kornfeld law firm, Cosner’s complaint quoted the Windsor town charter provision that “the term of office for an elected official either as a board member or mayor, or a combination of both, shall be limited to two consecutive elected terms.”

In an 18-page ruling, Lyons said Wilson’s April election and swearing-in to be null and void, determining that Frawley had misinterpreted the town’s charter provisions regarding term limits when she certified Wilson’s candidacy and eligibility to serve as mayor.

Four days after Cosner’s lawsuit was filed, Wilson resigned from his unfinished four-year term on the town board and was sworn in for a four-year term as mayor.

The judge agreed with Cosner that Wilson’s election as mayor constituted a third term.

Cosner had served on Windsor’s Downtown Development Authority and owns several properties in downtown Windsor.

Wilson said Frawley has now told him he would be ineligible to be reappointed to the board, and added that if he did file an appeal with the high court, Cosner could sue him to recoup his own court costs. Reached Friday afternoon, Cosner’s attorney, Thomas “Trey” Rogers of the Denver-based Recht Kornfeld law firm, said that indeed might be possible.

“Barry could still appeal, but he’d be doing it on his own dime,” Rogers said, “and I don’t know what his intention is.”

In a statement emailed to BizWest on Friday afternoon, Wilson wrote that “I was shocked when we did not appeal to protect our election. I’m not sure where the town goes from here after disenfranchising so many voters. I have lost trust, and we should all be concerned about influences over our local government. Are the people really in charge? If there is a special election, it will likely cost more than an appeal.

“Who would want to serve on the Town Board after watching this debacle? If they got rid of me, they could get rid of anyone. It was not a fun rollercoaster ride, but I do not have any regrets. I learned a ton and met so many great people. I will put my knowledge, skills and connections to good use on other worthy causes. The empty Town Board seats will be filled, Windsor will carry on, and so will I. My story is not over.”

The board now can either appoint a current board member as mayor, which would take a two-thirds vote, or conduct a special election, and is likely to make a decision at its next regular meeting June 10. It would not only fill the mayoral vacancy, currently held by Mayor Pro Tem Judy Cline, but also fill the District 2 seat from which Wilson resigned to take the reins as mayor.

“We don’t really have a position on that,” Rogers said.If finances keep Wilson from appealing his ouster to the state Supreme Court, he wrote, “I will leave holding my head high as a leader that worked hard and put his best foot forward. I represented our community with honor, pride, ethics and dignity. The outpouring of support has been incredible, much of it from people I have never met.”

Ousted as mayor of Windsor by a Weld County District Court ruling and rebuffed by the Windsor town board, Barry Wilson says he’d still like to appeal the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court but is discouraged by what it would cost.

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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