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Are You Fired Up Over Accusations Against Claudia McMullin’s Coffee Business? Not Me.

I like to get fired up. Give me a juicy story about an elected official exploiting the very power they have been given, and it’s like Christmas morning. According to KPCW, Summit County resident Chris Hague recently made allegations that McMullin’s Hugo Coffee business wasn’t paying fair rent, that McMullin didn’t disclose her ownership of the business in a 2013 conflict of interest filing, that her signage is illegal, and she just overall abused her power. I should be giddy with excitement over this story — but I’m not.

Laws are complicated things, and I don’t claim to be an expert. So I view this issue through the eyes of a normal Summit County resident. Does forgetting to declare the coffee business (you just bought) on a conflict of interest form legally require that you are removed from the County Council? I don’t know? Hypothetically if fellow council member Dave Ure, who raises cattle, sold some of his beef to a local restaurant and didn’t declare that sale, should he be removed? Legally, I have no idea. But I do know that McMullin declared it the next year, and I can’t really come up with how this materially impacts me as citizen.

Part of this uproar may be tied into the anger citizens have over the Boyer “Tech Park”. The citizens of Summit County were sold that a Technology Center could be built that would bring in high-tech jobs to the Basin. It hasn’t happened and it would make sense that the Boyer Company, who built it, would like the requirement that only tech companies can lease space removed so they can continue to sell office space to anyone. Hugo Coffee, I suppose, is a tenant of Boyer’s and theoretically Boyer could reduce Hugo Coffee’s rent. However, two things make me, as an average person, discount that. First, Hugo’s rent is the same as the previous tenant. Second, how many square feet does the company really lease? I see a lot of chairs, a place to make coffee, a shelf with a few things to buy and that’s it. I don’t know where it stops and the visitor center really ends. The space actually likely rented seems small. It just doesn’t bother me.

Next we have the accusations over signage. Signs, believe it or not, actually get me fired up. But again, not this one. This issue hinges on whether Hugo’s Coffee had a temporary sign for too long and whether her proposed signage (that will replace Silver Bean’s sign in the picture below) violates agreements and codes.

If Hugo’s new sign is anything like the old Silver Bean sign, it will be about the least offensive sign in the Basin. It was also said on KCPW that the sign could not face Highway 224, because it was not a primary use of the building. It could be true, but why is the Ryantech sign OK?

Again as a citizen, if we are going to solve the sign problem, let’s not just single out Hugo. A brief 10 minute drive around the Basin seems to show a number of questionable signs:

This mattress store's sign covers more than 25% of the window.
The mattress store’s sign sure look like it covers more than 25% of the window.
Is that sign bigger than 9 square feet? Not sure but it looks like it? Taller than 6 feet? HMMM
Sorry, but I don’t think two neon signs are allowed
I don’t think you can put another sign on a Stop sign.
I love fish tacos as much as the next person but I think that type of sign requires a permit and can be displayed only 4 times a year. Maybe this really is a SPECIAL!
Funny, I’ve never seen that trailer move but It’s working great as a nice big sign.

I am not accusing the above signs of breaking agreements or codes. For all I know they could be grandfathered under some previous code or there could be agreements in place that allow these. But if we want to attack Hugo for this, let’s make sure we add people to Summit County’s code enforcement group to take care of all these “egregious” signs.

Finally, we come to the abuse of power accusations. From KPCW’s report, there didn’t seem to be anything specific here. Without specific allegations, it’s hard to judge someone on their past actions to say they have abused power. Perhaps, though, it makes sense for McMullin to recuse herself from future committees and votes relating to the Boyer Tech Center. That’s not because I envision her doing anything wrong, but just so that we don’t have to waste time and resources on this subject again.

What I can say for sure is that I attended almost every Summit County Council meeting for a year and a half. I watched McMullin act as chairperson for a year. She ran efficient meetings and made them interesting. While I didn’t always agree with her opinion, she generally represented the people’s view. Nothing I have heard about this issue, as a normal citizen, changes my mind about her. Unless some magical smoking gun appears, I hope she maintains her position on the County Council as long she likes.


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