BY FREDA MIKLIN – GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
Last week, we reported that Douglas County Commissioners Abe Laydon and George Teal had sent a letter to the third member of the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), Lora Thomas, on April 23 informing her that they had voted to remove her as chair and that Laydon was now chair and Teal was vice-chair. They had also prepared a resolution to that effect to introduce and pass at the upcoming BOCC business meeting on April 27.
Laydon presided at the April 27 meeting. Before allowing public testimony, he informed the roomful of more than 50 residents that the previously published resolution had been revised. He said, “The three of us have made a decision to work together upstream and have all three of us act as equal co-chairs as we work through some challenges.” The revised resolution, which was later passed unanimously, said that “the commissioners will rotate the Chair position…weekly…beginning April 29, 2021…for a minimum of 30 days.”
After all three commissioners made short statements, the BOCC heard from 26 Douglas County residents in person and seven more by phone. Of that total of 33, 32 spoke in support of Lora Thomas, most stating that she should retain the position of chair. We’ve included some of the residents’ comments, along with Commissioner Thomas’ response, which was provided exclusively to The Villager.
George Allen of Parker said, “The resolution (in its original form) to demote and censure Chair Thomas…has an emotional and unprofessional tone. It includes a lot of inflammatory language and accusations and assertions and is woefully short on facts.” Allen continued. “I requested from the county the five egregious emails from Commissioner Thomas and what I received was weak and unpersuasive evidence of any misconduct or ethical violation. I wonder…is this a political game by the board to override Commissioner Thomas’ political priorities?”
Nicole Martin of Parker said, “I want to thank you guys for the light you are to all of the Republicans out there…As a female Republican woman, we do not have in Colorado very much female leadership…I don’t want to talk negatively about your (Laydon and Teal) integrity but…I work for a small church and when Tri-County Health was legitimately harassing us on a weekly basis, trying to shut us down, it was Lora who was able to come and help us. I would ask you to let Lora Thomas lead, she is a light to many Republican women.” Laydon replied, “We greatly value our Republican women, that’s for sure.”
Beverly Carson of Larkspur said, “We don’t pay taxes for a part-time commissioner,
nor do we pay taxes for babysitting. A couple of you are taking advantage of us…We need to protect our water and control our growth, not work with special interests such as developers who line their own pockets and possibly yours. It appears to me that you two (Laydon and Teal) are simply power hungry…” That drew applause from the room. It also drew this response from Laydon: “I have the calendar and the record to reflect that I work 60 to 80 hours a week.”
Evelyn Zur of Parker said, “This has been a very unpleasant petty conflict which has put a black cloud on our three commissioners…Many of us who voted for Lora did not vote for her because of her style. We voted for her because of her substance…She has been a fighter and she has been a guardian for the people she serves.”
Joy Overbeck of Parker said, “It’s you, Abe Laydon, and you George Teal, that were wielding that weapon of tyranny against Lora Thomas and she has done nothing to deserve it…I urge you to reinstate her as chair, because in your attempt to destroy the reputation and good name of Lora Thomas, I’m afraid you will destroy your own reputations and good names on the flimsiest excuses and pretenses,” adding that Thomas’ “integrity and dedication to the people of this county is beyond question, so much so that she was re-elected by 17 points over her Democratic rival.”
Addressing Laydon and Teal, she added, “You can’t cancel her just because she wants to keep government small and she believes you are trying to grow government with programs such as C-PACE, which she believes puts Douglas County taxpayers at risk and…our county treasurer and our county assessor agreed with her, and you passed it anyway.” (Administered in Colorado by Sustainable Real Estate Solutions, Inc., C-PACE is a national program in which up to 100 percent of the cost of energy efficiency improvements in commercial buildings is borrowed, off balance sheet, and repaid through the real property tax bill from the county over up to 25 years. The program was adopted by the general assembly and codified between 2010 and 2014.).
After the meeting, Commissioner Thomas told The Villager, exclusively, “I fully intend to be reinstated as Chair, and I would hope that my fellow commissioners would understand that serving the public is our sole responsibility. That is best accomplished with clear delineation of duties. A Business Meeting and Land Use and Public Hearing are scheduled for May 25; that’s a perfect time to reinstate me as Chair and put an end to this nonsense.”
Regarding the interim plan for rotating the chairmanship every Thursday, Thomas said, “This month-long round-robin musical-chair (literally) arrangement has resulted in a great deal of additional work and confusion for county staff and employees, as the chair holds many administrative duties beyond mere agendas and presiding over meetings. I was NEVER in favor of this arrangement and only accepted it in an effort to diffuse and minimize the damage of this very public and harmful situation that Laydon and Teal created.”
She also said, in reference to the BOCC having three members, “Our American Republic has always operated under the notion that, while the majority rules, the rights of the minority—especially the right to dissent/disagree—must always be respected. But without the right of the minority to disagree with the majority and engage in public discourse on the free exchange of ideas, we instead have the tyranny of the majority. The “Rule of Two” is no longer working on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners because there is no longer a respect for the minority’s right to publicly dissent and criticize. This attempt to remove me as chair was an effort to punish me for criticizing the policies of the majority which I believed to be not only contrary to their stated conservative principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility, but against what I have come to know are the priorities of our constituents.”