Weld County infighting among commissioners
Accusations of ethics abuse, illegal meetings, mistrust are flying
greeley» Animosity that has been silently raging between the Weld County commissioners in the past couple of years bubbled to a public fury this week.
Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway is threatening to sue his fellow county commissioners, alleging retaliation against him for his recent actions questioning fellow commissioners’ ethics and what he calls a common practice of holding illegal meetings.
The commissioners plan to strip him of any leadership roles in the county after the 2017 year starts with the commissioners’ oaths of office Jan. 4.
“Essentially, the residents and taxpayers and citizens of Weld are being told that one commissioner will not have any official duties for 2017 or years to come,” Conway said. “This has a chilling effect on our employees and our department heads. If the board of county commissioners can retaliate against a county commissioner, what message does that send for our department heads? The message is very clear, if you dare cross the county commissioners, bring to light anything you have concerns about, you will be dealt with in very harsh and retaliatory way.”
In a collective statement issued Friday, commissioners Julie Cozad, Mike Freeman, Barbara Kirkmeyer and Steve Moreno said Conway has lost their collective trust because of his behavior in releasing privileged e-mails between the commissioners and their attorney and his continued accusations of wrongdoing amid his questionable actions.
“On Jan. 4, as per the Home Rule Charter, the board will be reorganizing and making appointments,” the statement read. “As Conway has publicly stated, it is not our intent to elect him chair or appoint him to be a coordinator of any department.”
The action comes in the wake of a county employee filing a complaint against Conway, which he said is at his fellow commissioners’ urging. Freeman, the chairman of the Board of Weld County Commissioners, said Friday the employee had scheduled a work session when Conway was out of town, one in which Conway wanted to participate. Freeman said Conway called her and screamed at her for several minutes in a profanity-laced tirade before she hung up on him. Days later, she resigned.
Days after that, the commissioners informed Conway he could not coordinate a county department, and they wouldn’t elect him chairman of the board.
“I specifically told him, part of the reason I was supporting that is because he’s under investigation from an employee with harassment charges, and I didn’t feel it was fair … to put him in charge of people until we saw the results of this investigation,” Freeman said.
But the concerns with Conway go back a couple of years, and started with issues involving his niece, Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes.
“This all circles back to her,” said commissioner Steve Moreno in an interview earlier this week.
Since her election in 2014 as the Weld clerk and recorder, the commissioners say, Conway has been incredibly vocal about her being left out of an emergency training in Breckenridge last summer, and he has taken offense to commissioners refusing to allow Koppes to let the executive committee of the Weld County Republican Party hold meetings in the Weld County Elections Department offices two months before an election. He also has taken personal issue with the fact that a county employee complained about his niece’s managerial style and subsequent discussions about auditing her office.
He has since questioned the board members’ spending, ethics and accused them of holding illegal meetings to discuss county business without public notice.
Freeman said he is quite aware of the Colorado Sunshine Law.
“You can discuss whatever you want to discuss, the weather, or anything, as long as you’re not making decisions,” Freeman said. Colorado’s Sunshine Law does not require county commissioners to notice the public “if two or more meet to discuss dayto-day oversight of property or supervision of employees.”
The commissioners also often meet frequently for lunch, a practice Conway said he stopped attending awhile back because the commissioners’ discussions ventured into county business. The Colorado Sunshine Law states: “Social gatherings and chance meetings are exempt from open meetings regulations if discussion of public business is not the central purpose.”
The law states that when two or more members meet “at which public business is to be discussed or at which formal action may be taken” they must open the meetings to the public. How much more open can a meeting at Qdoba or Pizza Hut, or a hotel lobby be? Kirkmeyer asked.
Kirkmeyer said she is tired of accusations of wrongdoing.
“As far as I know, there is no formal way of sanctioning or censuring another county commissioner,” Kirkmeyer said in an interview this week. “From my own perspective, I’ll do what I think needs to be done to protect the county and ensure that we’re not being sabotaged by a rogue county commissioner.”