High noon showdown for the Wild Bunch

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Riding off into the sunset, or playing another hand?

By David Josselyn

Rumors abounded on social media after Thomas Matthews aka The Undertaker, posted on the “You know you’re from Gilpin County…” Facebook page on March 16, 2018, at 4:12 pm, stating he “Just heard that the Central City Council decided that the Central City Wild Bunch, part of the Gilpin County Historical Society is no longer going to perform!” As of Sunday, March 18, 2018, at 4:15 pm, 133 comments replied to that post expressing support for the Wild Bunch headed by Mike Keeler and incredulity about the decision. Keeler added his thoughts to the post saying, “I just want to say thank you to the City of Central, for letting us entertain not only the residents, but all those visitors from all over the world. When they step off that tour bus and see all the cowboys, what they see is all those stories they’ve heard come true, a step back in time. Like it or not The Wild Bunch were ambassadors of the city. The city has been great to The Wild Bunch for the last nine seasons, and we’ll still be available for appearances.” It would appear that the Wild Bunch has met their “high noon” standoff at the OK Corral, but is that true? Social Media is not a trustworthy news source, so I sat down with Central City’s manager, Daniel Miera, and the City Mayor, Kathy Heider, to learn the truth.

Manager Miera could only speculate on how this story started. The facts are, on Thursday, March 15, at 2:30 pm, the City Council and the Business Improvement District (BID) had a joint work session. During this work session, the BID, headed by Executive Director Joe Behm, brought up a few concerns regarding their summer events. More specifically, they were concerned that in light of recent incidents involving shootings, that it might not be a good idea to hear loud gunfire during their two alcohol-related events. The last thing they want is a panicked mob. The BID asked the City to not allow the Wild Bunch to perform during those two events. The Council and the BID discussed the concerns and offered several solutions. The following day, a rumor began that Central City was refusing to allow the Wild Bunch Gang to perform this summer.

Mayor Heider stated that the Council feels the Wild Bunch Gang is an asset to the community and the City. She said part of the discussion with the BID included the substitution for caps in place of blanks in the guns. The Wild Bunch Gang operates under Gilpin History rather than the City, so the only real decision the City can make is whether or not to accept a permit from the Wild Bunch for closing Main Street during their performances. Since the Wild Bunch operates under the Gilpin Historical Society, the permit is only for closing the street and cannot reflect the content of the performance. Manager Miera said he has not seen a permit submitted for the 2018 year.

Chuck Pfleghardt commented on Facebook, “I’d say it was a closed-door decision on part of the City Council…” Since the issue was brought up, I decided to clarify the rules with the Mayor and City Manager. City Council cannot make a “closed-door” decision. All their regular meetings are public and on public record. The reference to a closed-door meeting could be referring to their Executive Sessions. Per rule, an Executive Session is an information gathering session outside of public record which can be for many reasons, but it boils down to the protection of an entity or individual from libel, slander, etc. or the discussion revolves around legal advice which is always confidential or personnel matters which also not public. No decision is ever made by Council during an Executive Session, but they can give direction to Staff. When an official decision is made based on Executive Session (ES), then the ES is scheduled prior to a regular meeting and the official decision is made publicly. I asked Manager Miera if the Council could come out of ES and make a decision prior to adjourning the regular meeting when no one was left in the Council chambers. Miera stated they could, but the sitting Council has never done so and he would not expect them to ever do so.

Since the BID has more say in what happens during their events, I asked the Executive Director, Joe Behm, to comment. On behalf of the BID, Behm said, “Our goal is for people visiting Central City to not only be safe, but also feel safe. Because this entertainment offering is in the public realm and produces the sound of guns firing, visitors could be alarmed and feel unsafe due to recent and tragic public shootings.” I asked him if the BID has given the Wild Bunch Gang an ultimatum and he stated, “The BID did not issue any directives to the Wild Bunch.” Just to clarify, Behm also said that the BID is not affiliated with the Wild Bunch Gang.

There you have it. The Wild Bunch Gang may or may not perform this summer on the streets of Central City and it sounds as if the power is in their hands, although they may have to make some compromises regarding gun play with the City before their permit is accepted. Will this be the end? Only time will tell.

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