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Town planner fired for statements she made in confidence to reporter

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Town planner fired for statements she made in confidence to reporter

  • Carolyn Poissant was fired by the town manager of Snowmass Village for comments she made criticizing the lack of public oversight granted for a development project.

Oct. 30, 2003 — A Colorado town employee was fired last week after a newspaper inadvertently identified her as the anonymous source in an article that questioned the town’s handling of a resort development project.

Carolyn Poissant, then a senior town planner for Snowmass Village, made statements to The Aspen Times under the condition of anonymity, accusing town officials of shutting out the public and engaging in “backroom negotiations” with the developers of a ski resort project.

The Oct. 7 article identified the source as a female town planner. Town officials were easily able to single out Poissant, who was the only woman working in that capacity at the time. She was placed on unpaid administrative leave the same day the story was published. Poissant was officially fired by the town manager, Michael Segrest, Oct. 17.

“Deals are being cut without any public input or staff review whatsoever,” Poissant was quoted as saying about the town’s handling of the development.

Poissant now says she didn’t mean to imply that anything illegal was going on, but stands by her statement that the public was being shut out of the planning process.

Madeline Osberger, general manager of the Snowmass Village Sun, which is owned by the Times, said many local residents have reacted “angrily” to Poissant’s dismissal.

“There’s a sense among some that maybe the town officials are too cozy with the developers,” said Osberger, who has covered the story for both the Times and the Sun.

Editors at the Times have publicly apologized for mistakenly identifying Poissant. The newspaper stressed that the original story, written by reporter Steve Benson, protected Poissant’s identity. However, an editing change revealed her as the source.

“We regret that this story has resulted in this outcome,” Assistant Editor Allyn Harvey said in a follow-up story Oct.10. “We try very hard to protect the anonymity of confidential sources.”

“We think it’s important that people be able to express their opinions without fear of losing their jobs,” he added.

Ironically, Poissant said she now plans to pursue a Ph.D. in public affairs at the University of Maryland.

The proposed development, which currently calls for one million square feet of new construction, includes condominiums, townhouses, single-family homes, retail space and parking for 1,100 vehicles. Snowmass Village currently has about 1,800 permanent residents.


© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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