Commissioners agree to postpone leadership decision

They will wait at least 30 days before making final decision on chair role

Posted
After about a week of tension among the Douglas County commissioners, the three-person board agreed to postpone the realignment of leadership for at least 30 days.
 
The board had planned to publicly censure and formally remove Commissioner Lora Thomas from her position as the board’s chair in an April 27 meeting, but in a work session that morning, they agreed to wait on the decision.
 
Then in a formal business meeting later that day, they formally approved the new resolution.
 
“The public does not care about what we are fighting about,” Commissioner Abe Laydon said in the work session. “They want to see us govern with excellence.”
 
Instead, the board agreed to share the chair position, with each co-chair holding those responsibilities on a rotating, one-week basis. They will maintain that agreement for at least 30 days. The board expressed interest in using that time to find an outside party to mediate the situation. 
 
The disagreement between commissioners began when the New York Times requested an interview with the county on April 16, Thomas said in an April 24 radio interview with George Brauchler.
 
The board agreed that Laydon would take the interview instead of Thomas, a move that was out-of-step with their normal agreement to rotate on media interviews, she said in the interview.
 
Thomas believed this was a breach in their written media protocol and went on to send emails to community members saying so, according to the public censure and resolution originally planned by Teal and Laydon. The media protocol, an unofficial document still in draft form, does not include that provision, according to a county spokesperson.
 
In the original resolution they planned to vote on April 27, Teal and Laydon stated that the sending of emails to community members was an attempt to “willfully deceive county residents and members of the business community” and an “attempt to influence the board.”
 
“Some of those emails were received by businesses with active land use applications before the board and were interpreted to be intimidation to compel those applicants to influence the board,” according to the resolution.
 
Thomas has since stated that she wasn’t lying but simply mistaken in thinking the practice of rotating interviews was part of the commissioners' media protocol.
 
“I have a real problem with you saying I’m not truthful,” Thomas said in the April 27 work session. “What I’m hearing is that I’m untruthful because I truly thought something that we have done for years was in writing and it isn’t. That’s a mistake, not a lie.”
 
On April 19, Teal and Laydon voted to remove Thomas as chair. Laydon then became the new chair and Teal became vice chair.
 
Though the initial resolution stated that Thomas had used her county email address to send the emails to community members, she had used her personal email address to do so, she said in the meeting.
 

Work session

In their work session, commissioners went through some of the details of what happened and what led to the conflict. While the commissioners didn’t come to agreement on what happened and why, they did agree that the situation was not close to being resolved and was embarrassing for the board.
 
The board eventually agreed to the new resolution, postponing the leadership realignment to see if they could sort the disagreement out internally.
 
Teal and Laydon both made comments that they would need assurances from Thomas to consider reinstating her as board chair.
 
“We need some really strong commitments from you going forward that we’re not going to end up in this mess again,” Laydon said.
 

Meeting comments

During the formal business meeting, members of the public had an opportunity to speak to the commissioners. The vast majority of comments were supportive of reinstating Thomas as the board chair.
 
In her comments to the media leading up to the meeting, Thomas requested that her supporters show up at the April 27 meeting to voice their disagreement with the decision to remove her.
 
Several commenters said that the public squabbling was harmful to the board and could make their seats vulnerable in future elections. Many asked the commissioners to put their differences aside and work together.
 
A few people spoke in support of Teal and Laydon’s initial decision to remove Thomas as chair.
 
The meeting and all comments are available to watch at youtube.com by searching Douglas County Colorado.
 
View a Twitter thread from the meeting here:

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