BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On his KNUS710 radio show on November 23, Jimmy Sengenberger leveled a host of criticisms at Arapahoe County Clerk Joan Lopez. Sengenberger is active in Republican politics, Lopez was historically active with the Democrats.
The radio show featured an interview with Michele Peterson, a current employee in the elections division of the clerk’s office, who talked about her unpleasant history with Lopez’ chief deputy, Karl Hermann. Sengenberger explained that in Aug. 2016, while working as Peterson’s manager under former Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane, Hermann was demoted and moved to a different location after having a closed-door meeting with Peterson despite having previously been told not to have that type of meeting with her. He subsequently resigned. In the interview, Peterson alleged more egregious behavior. Earlier this year, Sengenberger filed a Colorado Open Records Act request for the report of the 2016 incident. It was refused by Lopez and her decision was upheld by an arbitrator for the Board of County Commissioners on Nov. 21.
Sengenberger questioned Lopez’ decision to hire Hermann as her chief deputy “despite human resources, county legal, and a few members of the board of county commissioners telling her no, you should not do this.”
Peterson explained that she was a temporary worker in the clerk’s office for two years before being hired full time in Feb. 2009 as a registration lead in the elections section, a position she still occupies. In 2016, when Hermann was her manager, she described a difficult relationship, saying she “had gone numerous times to HR (human resources) to see if there was anything I could do. We just bumped heads a lot. Our personalities just didn’t work out so well. There were times when we would work together very well and other times it was just impossible.” Regarding the closed-door meeting that gave rise to Hermann being demoted and moved, she said, “I didn’t realize that they (HR) had asked him not to have a closed-door conversation with me, or I would not have been in there on that day.” Peterson described a meeting in which Hermann made a policy decision that she stated she did not agree with but would follow because he was the boss. Hermann continued to try to get her to agree with his decision. She said that she eventually told him she was going to go back to work, and as she was proceeding back to her work area, she realized that Hermann had followed her. She said he grabbed her arm, turned her around, and told her “to get back in his office.” Peterson said she “hit his arm off me and told him to never, ever touch me again.” Apparently, no one else was present. Peterson said that Hermann retreated and she went to HR, who wrote up a report, which eventually led to his being demoted and moved to another work location before he resigned to take a job with the City and County of Denver.
Peterson described getting therapy to help her handle the anxiety she has experienced since Hermann returned to the department as Lopez’ deputy. According to Peterson, “He (Hermann) was pretty much keeping his distance most days and just avoiding our area until Thursday (Nov. 21) when the (arbitrator’s) decision came out. Friday was just a completely different day, where he walked by my desk at least a dozen times, like trying to say, ‘See, I win.’ Asked by Sengenberger why she continues to work there, Peterson said, “I love what I do…I love…helping voters…I’ve always enjoyed it up until this year.”
The entire interview can be found on https://sengenberger.podbean.com/e/jimmy-sengenberger-show-nov-23-2019-hr-2/. The segment also includes Sengenberger reading and discussing the contents of an anonymous letter from another current employee of the clerk’s office that is critical of management.
We asked for a comment about the radio show from the Arapahoe County Clerk, but we were told by her public information officer that she is unavailable for any comments at this time.
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