DEL NORTE — Del Norte Town Board Trustee Laura Anzalone gave a short speech during the regular meeting on Nov. 10 about being censured and what she plans to do moving forward.
There were more people than normal at the meeting, many to support Anzalone. At one point, after the meeting was adjourned, Del Norte Mayor Chris Trujillo allegedly confronted a person in the crowd and law enforcement stepped in to prevent it from escalating.
Anzalone has yet to receive a clear justification for being censured by the Town Board and has obtained legal counsel from a local attorney.
The attorney working for Anzalone formally requested that the Del Norte Town Board remove the censure and asked that it be resolved by the Nov. 10 meeting.
The board did not respond to the request and did not place a hearing on the agenda for Nov. 10 as requested. Town staff and Mayor Trujillo have declined to shed any light on the situation, stating only that they cannot comment at this time per legal advice.
While Town staff and members of the board remain quiet publicly, Anzalone has not. During the meeting on Nov. 10, she addressed the crowd and fellow Trustees.
According to Anzalone and the letter from her attorney requesting that the censure be removed, she was approached by Mayor Trujillo and Del Norte Town Attorney Gene Farish before a work session last month and was told by the two men that she was not wanted and that they had means and the votes to have her removed from her elected office.
“I am in a middle of a mess," Anzalone said. "It started with Mayor Chris pulling me aside with Mr. Farish before a work session and some of you were aware and some of you weren’t aware of it. That unprofessional conduct of you, Chris, the Mayor, was not surprising to me, but what was surprising was that my fellow Trustees went ahead and tried to remove me from office in executive session.”
After this incident, the board moved forward with the process of removing Anzalone from the elected position but instead voted to censure the trustee following an executive session that is in question for allegedly not following open meeting laws and regulations per the letter drafted by Anzalone’s attorney.
“Then you decided in that executive session to censure me," Anzalone said. "It's also my understanding that the board is seeking outside counsel to look at my claim against the process and it seems backward to be looking at the law after instead of first to make sure due process was followed as you went ahead and used rules against me. I would have appreciated a phone call, a resolution strategy, several things. If you go ahead and seek outside counsel and go through this, you’re using taxpayers’ dollars to correct the missteps you have taken. I suppose I would like you to consider withdrawing the censure otherwise I will likely move forward with filing with the courts. It's not something I want to do, it's not something I am happy to do but I was broken-hearted and disappointed by the whole thing.”
Anzalone's comments were met with applause from the crowd. Denny Wetmore asked the board why they had not responded to the allegations against them to which the mayor responded stating, “It is all under investigation right now and there will be no comment.”
Wetmore continued to ask why, and City Attorney Farish also responded stating, “It is correct that we are not going to comment on it, so you need to stop asking that question.”
At this time, the board voted to adjourn the meeting.
A 2-minute video submitted to Valley Publishing shows Wetmore in the foreground and Del Norte Police Department Police Chief Frank Archuleta and another officer standing to the right and left of Mayor Trujillo in the background facing Wetmore after the alleged incident. Wetmore and others stated that law enforcement stepped in when the mayor allegedly “rushed” him. Wetmore and others said the mayor’s actions were unprofessional.
When contacted for a statement on what happened, Archuleta said he was advised not to comment at this time.
Wetmore continues to be concerned with the actions of Del Norte's public officials.
“It highly concerns me and honestly scares me that the board thinks they can meet in private or not follow basic rules," Wetmore said. "We elected them to be there and to work for us, not keep things from us. It should scare everyone.”
On Monday, Nov. 15, Anzalone spoke with Valley Publishing.
“We all as trustees took an oath of office to uphold the law and to perform our duty as a public official to the best of our ability," she said. "Public service as an elected official comes with a social responsibility to serve our community. When the Town Board moved to have a public hearing without stated allegations, and then met behind closed doors to construct a censure against a public official the rules of the law were not upheld. Fairness and courtesy are matters of moral obligation, a part of civic behavior that I see as necessary. The actions by town violate statutory code and do a disservice to the concept of 'the best of our ability.'"