After around 2 hours of discussion and debate at the Buena Vista trustees’ meeting Tuesday night, Brad Wann’s appeal of the town’s decision regarding his event permit application was denied.

Trustees voted 4-2 that the town administrator acted in accordance with the Municipal Code and upheld her decision to conditionally approve Wann’s permit should an alternative date be agreed upon. (See Trustees, P5)

In a brief update on their special events, the Rec Department report stated that they have been providing information for the appeal and any public records requests that Wann had submitted.

“It appears that the burro racing community has a much bigger and more egregious fight going on, and the town of Buena Vista happens to be in the middle of it. We continue to stay focused on our code and the decisions that we need to make, despite fairly constant communication and character assassinations between the two parties that have applications in with the town,” the report said. “You can be certain that the town staff has made objective decisions based on our code.”

During his appeal, Wann cited the lack of communication, confusion and frustration surrounding the town’s code and the “impossibility” of John Paul LaCroix’s event due to permit restrictions on BLM land.

He also referenced an Aug. 2, 2022, email from LaCroix to Chamber of Commerce director Heather Rupska and former Rec Dept. employee Ben Eichel saying he planned to apply for the event.

Wann, in response to a question from trustee Gina Lucrezi, said he was never told another person might be planning to apply for the same event. LaCroix’s application and Wann’s 2022 BV race both took place 12 days later.

Town administrator Lisa Parnell-Rowe and special event coordinator Leslie Quilico took time to explain the timeline of the applications they received and their decision-making process, which included a meeting with rec staff and former town admin Phillip Puckett to come to an appropriate conclusion, which was then communicated to both Wann and John Paul LaCroix.

Trustee Peter Hylton-Hinga said that while the code needs to be revamped to protect historical events, he wanted to focus on whether the code had been followed in this particular situation. He felt that relying on a formal code-based system rather than a “buddy-buddy” model would lead to more transparency going forward.

“I think this is a horrible example of a hole in our codes that needs to be cleaned up and fixed as we professionalize more as a town,” he said. “It sounds like what happened was the previous way things were done was an informal way of doing things, ad it reverted back to code, which is a formal way of doing things. … I think that’s why it’s important for me to side with the town and the way that they followed the code in this particular situation.”

Other trustees shared Hylton-Hinga’s sentiment. Another concern was whether offering Wann alternative dates even mattered if his BLM permit was not transferrable to another day. Trustee Cindie Swisher said it was “kind of a joke,” expressing her dislike for how the process had happened.

The trustees eventually voted 4-2 that the town administrator acted in accordance with the code and upheld the original decision to conditionally approve the permit.

Wann also expressed frustration that his denial didn’t come from the town administrator, but from Quilico. While Parnell-Rowe expressed it was not a denial but a conditional approval, town attorney Jeff Parker said she has the “administrative authority to delegate notice of the decision.”

After the trustees voted to uphold the decision, Parker added that Parnell-Rowe could “act with administrative authority” to establish deadlines for the other applicant’s additional permits. Parnell-Rowe said she would continue to be in contact with both applicants.

“I do understand what the vote was today and wish it was different favor, but whichever way it went, I think we were still in stalemate as to who would have the event,” Wann said after thanking the trustees for their time. “Hopefully (LaCroix) can get the permits and if he can’t, I can’t wait to hear from you. Also, make sure that he gets his insurance. That’s probably the hardest thing. It’s harder to get insurance than it is even to get a BLM permit if you don’t know how to do it. You’re dealing with animals and you’re going to have to (get insurance).”

(1) comment

Dave Edwards

I've been following this matter since it became known, and in my opinion, it's a symptom of a bigger situation, that as this very news article mentions, might be a bigger problem in the Burro racing community, with the City of Buena Vista being put in the middle of it. I happen to agree with that.

I think I'm safe in saying Brad Wann never went looking for problems in this entire matter. He probably never imagined there would be some baseless hostile takeover going on behind his back. The problems were foisted on him last mid July, when according to Mr. LaCroix's emails, the President of the WPBA approached him about trying to take over the BV race. So, all Mr. Wann has done throughout this entire matter is to stand his ground, and protect his and committee's interests. This news article mentioned that the two men involved engaged in mutual "character assassinations". Can someone point out where Mr. Wann ever attacked the character of Mr. LaCroix? On the other hand, there are some pretty suspicious things going on with some things said and done here that are documented that have occurred and targeted Mr. Wann. I have a pretty good idea who is behind that.

I am not criticizing the Trustee's in their decision to follow the City Ordinance, because to have found in favor of Wann's appeal, they'd have gone against their own City code. (Although it was still a split decision). What is more troubling to me, is that Mr. LaCroix, in his own exactly words, "formally withdrew" his application to be race director in an email last February 7th. Then, a single person called him and apparently talked him out of it. Had that not of happened, this entire debacle would have been over and done with last February 7th. (This was a topic of discussion amongst the Trustees too). It's not as if Mr. LaCroix was going to take being the BV race director to a whole new level here, where Mr. Wann would never be able to equal. I'd say it's more likely that last statement would be the other way around.

Here's the unfortunate way the Buena Vista Burro race could turn out this year, if in a best case scenario for Mr. LaCroix, he does manage to get his race permits for Chaffee County, and his insurance coverage. Mr. Wann has his BLM permit to conduct a race next August 13th. With that permit, race registration for his race has already begun. I believe Brad called it his "Plan B" move in the event Buena Vista did award Mr. LaCroix the City permit. Last year, there were 70 participants in the BV Burro race. I averaged the last 5 years of participants in the BV Burro races, and just coincidently, that number came back to 70 as well. As of this writing, Mr. Wann's race has 67% of the number of participants (70) already. This is probably unprecedented to have that many Burro racers register this early before a race. I would suggest it's a show of support for the Wann's. This show of support is very important, yet seemingly an overlooked facet of this whole matter. Because we have two men vying for the race director position, with the City in the middle of it, but there's no consideration for what the actual Burro racers think about it. Consider if you will that Mr. Wann's planned Burro race outside of BV has 67% of the total racers on this April 26th. I think it's safe to say that he'll get even more as the race date approaches. So, if Mr. LaCroix proceeds with his race as well, where are all the participants going to come from that will register for his race? Might a whole lot of Burro racers both decide to support the Wann race, and also figure that given the number of race registrations, it's the more appealing race to choose here? Conversely, a race this year in Buena Vista, could possibly have all the costs of putting it on in place, and end up being a bust. Both in low racer participation, a less attractive race route, and yet have all the costs to register for it.

It's too soon to say that this is how this "Donkey Drama is going to play out, but I see my take on it as a real possibility. If it ends up this way, will Mr. Wann be demonized for holding an August 13th Burro race that he had BLM permitting for long before he was subterfuged by the WPBA and Mr. LaCroix? That's not even fair, as all he's done was stand his ground here.

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