Colorado SpringsNews

Colorado Springs council members rip Bill Murray for walkout

Author: Conrad Swanson, The Gazette - February 27, 2018 - Updated: February 27, 2018

Several Colorado Springs City Council members chided one of their own Monday, accusing Councilman Bill Murray of grandstanding and turning negotiations on Banning Lewis Ranch into a media sensation.

Murray walked out of an executive session last week, saying he will boycott closed sessions on the ranch’s 30-year-old annexation agreement, which long has been blamed for stymying development of the 24,000-acre ranch.

Murray asked his colleagues Monday to consider voting during their Tuesday meeting to make negotiations on that issue public instead of continuing the closed sessions.

Only council members Don Knight and Yolanda Avila backed Murray’s proposal to change the Tuesday agenda.

But Knight told Murray not to misunderstand his support. Knight said he favors keeping the negotiations in executive sessions but voted to hear Murray’s proposal as a courtesy, which he would extend toward any council member.

Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler lambasted Murray, saying he is trying to torpedo the negotiations rather than work toward a constructive solution.

“It’s been ridiculous how this has been blown up in the media,” Gaebler said.

If Murray hadn’t walked out, she said, he would have learned that several others on the council shared some of his concerns. But such concerns should be discussed privately, Gaebler said.

Council President Richard Skorman last week also questioned the need for the closed meeting.

“A lot of it didn’t need to be discussed in executive session. A lot of it was just answering questions on part of the annexation agreement that’s already public,” he said then.

Monday, Skorman said Murray’s conduct was “off base.” Councilman Andy Pico said Murray was “out of line.”

Knight, Pico and Councilman Dave Geislinger said it is imperative that the negotiations remain confidential.

“You don’t say (in public) what your bottom line is,” Geislinger said, because that would give the advantage to about 40 ranch property owners with whom the city is negotiating.

In light of the group’s decision, Murray said, he will not boycott those closed meetings, as he needs to “engage from the inside.”

Erin Prater

Erin Prater is Colorado Politics' digital editor. She is a multimedia journalist with 15 years of experience writing, editing and designing for newspapers, magazines, websites and publishing houses. Her previous positions include military reporter at The Gazette, general assignment reporter at The Huerfano County (Colo.) World, copy editor at David C. Cook publishing house and adjunct mass communication instructor at Pueblo Community College. Her bylines include The New York Times Upfront, The Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Military Spouse magazine and Omaha Magazine (Omaha, Neb.). Her syndicated bylines include The Denver Post, MSNBC.com, Military.com and wire services.