Drew Nelson, Salida city administrator accused of domestic abuse, at center of #MeToo debate

Drew Nelson, Salida city administrator accused of domestic abuse, at center of #MeToo debate

Salida Mayor P.T. Wood barely maintained decorum in the City Council chambers the night he tried to convince concerned residents that their recently hired city administrator had not abused his wife.

The council was scheduled to talk about a number of mundane municipal issues that October night: a hangar lease, street closures, permit requests. But the people in the audience wanted to talk about the hiring of Drew Nelson.

They had questions: Had the council members who selected Nelson known about his arrest in January 2018 on charges that he’d allegedly threatened his wife with a sledgehammer and drunkenly shot eight rounds from the back porch of his old neighborhood in Winter Park?

And why, considering those facts, had they still hired him eight months later to lead their city?

A room of women had gathered to express their shock at the decision, some survivors of domestic abuse themselves. Megan Kahn was the second woman to walk up to the podium that night. She said hiring Nelson sends a message that violent behavior is acceptable.

“And it’s the wrong message, the wrong time,” she said, starting to cry. “The worst time.”

  • Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Megan Kahn addresses members of the Salida City Council, voicing her disapproval of the hiring of City Administrator Drew Nelson, on Feb. 5, 2019. In October, the Salida council hired Nelson, despite his arrest in January 2018 on charges that he’d allegedly threatened his wife with a sledgehammer and drunkenly shot eight rounds from the back porch of his old neighborhood in Winter Park.

  • Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Megan Kahn addresses members of the Salida City Council, voicing her disapproval of the hiring of new City Administrator Drew Nelson, on Feb. 5, 2019. Kahn is one of a group of local residents who turn out to every City Council meeting to voice their opposition to Nelson.

Ten days prior, the U.S. Senate had confirmed Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice after an investigation into three women’s accounts that he had sexually assaulted them decades ago. The confirmation process, along with a series of accusations against entertainment celebrities and media figures, prompted national conversations: Should a person accused of wrongdoing still hold public office or a high-profile position in a community? When should collective forgiveness be granted? And who gets to decide?

After Nelson’s hiring, Salida residents started to debate the same questions. But such conversations are different in the 6,000-person river town, which sits about two hours west of Pueblo, than they are in Washington, D.C. In Salida, the debate has ended friendships. People fear speaking out on either side of the issue because they don’t want to lose business or their jobs.

While Kahn stated at that meeting that the hiring came at the wrong time, another woman said it was exactly the right moment.

“This is the perfect time,” Zoë Rayor said at that October council meeting. “This is the first time in history that survivors are being listened to and that we’re actively seeking justice and holding men accountable for their actions.

“In the #MeToo era, we are holding you accountable.”

But in Salida, the national conversation surrounding violence against women and accountability of the powerful has both helped and hindered those trying to speak up.

Salida's historic downtown area sits at ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

A man walks through Salida’s historic downtown on Feb. 5, 2019. The F Street Five and Dime store, right, is a popular stop for visitors to the city. On one side of the store’s facade is the WWII Chaffee County Honor Roll Board that pays tribute to the more than 700 residents from Chaffee County that served in World War II.

Eight shots and a sledgehammer

Council members knew about Nelson’s arrest when they agreed to hire him eight months after the incident in Winter Park. Nelson was upfront about the situation when he applied, Wood said.

When contacted by a reporter, Nelson declined to answer emailed questions, instead deferring to comments he already had made publicly. In addressing the City Council in October, Nelson said he never threatened his wife or his children, who were in the home that night, and that the only person in danger that night was himself.

“As we’ve struggled in our marriage, I fell into a pretty deep despair that I couldn’t escape,” he said, a video of the meeting shows. “I reached a point in January where I put myself and only myself in harm’s way.”

On Jan. 22, 2018, Nelson drunkenly shot eight rounds from the back porch of his home on a residential street outside Winter Park, according to a Grand County Sheriff’s Office incident report. A short time later, he cornered his wife in a laundry room while holding a 10-pound sledgehammer, according to the report. She told police that she feared he would hit her with the hammer, but was able to get it away from him, the report states.

When police arrived, Nelson told them…

Original Article Source…


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