Fireworks plan sparks debate in Castle Pines
Castle Pines Councilmember James Einolf recently questioned the appropriateness of the city raising funds for its July 6 fireworks event by asking for money from vendors that do business with the city.
Einolf said at the council's June 11 meeting that, although not technically illegal, he wonders about the propriety of the solicitations — a joint effort undertaken by Mayor Jeffrey Huff and the Castle Pines Chamber of Commerce.
“(You) should have consulted with the rest of council,” he said, addressing Huff.
Huff responded that the letter sent to vendors and others was very clear that these were voluntary contributions, an opportunity to participate in a community event, and only asked for $250.
“I'm actually quite offended at (the) insinuation,” Huff said.
The verbal exchange occurred after Huff reported to council that Castle Pines' July 6 fireworks event, costing about $3,000, will be “sort of a subdued event — small entertainment and things.” Huff said the city would pay $250 for a liability insurance rider, but the other funds needed had been raised by the chamber of commerce.
Einolf told Huff he attends chamber meetings and was not aware of any fundraising, and he expressed concern about a letter sent to city vendors, signed by the mayor, with a logo indicating it was a joint city/chamber effort.
Carla Kenny, the chamber's vice president, told the council that $1,000 was raised from four city vendors. For the remainder needed — $2,000 — the chamber plans to use a portion of the city's annual $5,000 chamber membership fee.
Kenny said in a recent interview that the chamber joined forces with the city because the chamber is always asking for sponsorships for everything, and “we've exhausted our chamber members and community.” So for this year's effort, they were “trying to get a different group.”
Instead of soliciting chamber members or small local businesses, the chamber asked other businesses and city vendors. Huff said in an interview he got involved because the city's town manager spot currently is vacant, so he's involved in some day-to-day decisions.
As far as Einolf's concern that the letter might have unduly pressured those who received it: “The letter did not have that tone in it at all,” Kenny said. “It really was just a way to give back to the community.” Kenny said if they had been asking for $1,000 instead of $250, that might be a different story.
“I'm sure James had great intentions,” she said about Einolf's concerns.
But the chamber had great intentions too, she said.
Einolf said in a recent interview that Kenny is always wonderful in helping everyone in the community who needs something, and that the chamber is completely free to do what it wants. He said his concern is elsewhere: “Is it proper for the city to solicit its vendors? Is it proper for the mayor to do it without any consultation of the council?”
Einolf said he's concerned that businesses may have felt pressure — “however slight.” Einolf said if he were a vendor, he'd consider receiving such a letter very unusual and it would make him wonder: “Do I need to pay money to keep working for the city?”