Resolution explains removal of Douglas County commissioners chair

Incident began with interview request from national media outlet

Elliott Wenzler ewenzler@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/23/21

The chair of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners was removed from that position after her fellow board members accused her of lying and using her title “for personal gain …

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Resolution explains removal of Douglas County commissioners chair

Incident began with interview request from national media outlet

Posted

The chair of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners was removed from that position after her fellow board members accused her of lying and using her title “for personal gain politically,” according to a resolution posted to the Douglas County website April 23.

The resolution, which will be voted on in an April 27 meeting, also states that former board chair Lora Thomas sent emails to members in the business community that were interpreted by some — who have active land use applications in the county — as intimidation.

“Commissioner Thomas’ actions have brought a sad day upon the people of Douglas County,” according to the resolution.

The resolution outlines the conflict between Thomas and her fellow commissioners Abe Laydon and George Teal.

The incident began April 16 when the board received a media request from a national media outlet for an interview with a board member, according to the resolution.

“During that rapid decision making process, the board came to a conclusion that Commissioner Thomas disagreed with,” according to the resolution.

Thomas responded by asserting that this was a violation of the board’s media protocol.

That media protocol is an incomplete document that has been in progress since January, according to a county spokesperson. While the board often uses an informal rotating assignment of media interviews, it isn’t outlined in the draft media protocol, according to the spokesperson.

Commissioners had decided that Laydon would take the interview with the national outlet rather than Thomas, according to the spokesperson.

After being informed that she was incorrect about the media protocol, Thomas went on to send emails to “county residents and the business community” about the incident, saying the policy had been breached.

The resolution called those emails 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.

In a text message, Thomas responded to the posted resolution with a statement that she wouldn’t back down.

“A couple of petulant good old boys who don’t like the fact that I tell them they are wrong,” she said. “Ask the liberal Democrat I beat in a landslide last fall whether or not I’m the kind of person who backs down from a fight. Ask Jared Polis whether I’m the kind of person who backs down. I haven’t and I won’t, not from Polis and certainly not from these two juveniles.”

Thomas did not respond to questions about the specific allegations in the resolution.

On April 19, Laydon and Teal voted to remove Thomas as the board chair in a work session. Laydon became the new chair and Teal became vice chair.

The resolution goes on to say Thomas was removed because her action had compromised the integrity of the board’s process.

“Commissioner Thomas’ actions ... were an attempt to willfully deceive county residents and members of the business community,” according to the resolution.

The county’s policy says that the board can enforce upon itself “whatever discipline is needed to govern with excellence,” according to the policy.

“Discipline will apply to matters such as attendance, preparation for meetings, policymaking principles, respect of roles, adherence to BCC code of conduct,” according to the policy.

An April 23 letter to Thomas, signed by “the board of county commissioners,” is also attached to the agenda for the April 27 commissioners’ meeting.

“You have continued to misrepresent the truth and leverage your name, title and apparent authority as chair … for personal gain politically and for those that have contributed to your campaign,” according to the letter.

Thomas posted to her personal website April 21 that she had been removed from the position and said she felt the action had been an attempt to “silence her voice,” according to the post. In the letter to Thomas, Laydon and Teal write that Thomas had several opportunities over the preceding week to “say anything you wanted and work through challenges.”

“You expressly indicated to us and staff that you were not interested in saying anything or speaking directly to us,” according to the letter.

Much of the language in the letter mirrors that of a letter sent by the board the week prior to a board of health member who was fired by the commissioners.

“The distrust you helped create must end, as citizens need assurances that those who were elected to protect their interests are doing so,” according to the letter to Thomas.

The same sentence was included in a letter to Marsha Jaroch, informing her she had been terminated as a board of health member representing Douglas County to the Tri-County Health Department.

The county’s board of commissioners chair serves as the leader of the board and is often a public representative, according to the county’s policy for commissioners. The chair presides over meetings and decides agendas. Normally, the chair and vice chair are selected on a rotating basis based on district, according to the policy.

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