Saga Drags On as Brainard Assumes Seat on Council

Two views of citizens  turning their backs on Brainard at his swearing in ceremony May 6, 2013.

Two views of citizens turning their backs on Brainard at his swearing in ceremony May 6, 2013. Ruth Ehlers is seen in the hot pink jacket in the top photo. (Photo Credit: Demand Rick Brainard Resign Grand Junction Facebook page)

Rick Brainard was elevated to Grand Junction City Council this week amid an unprecedented citizen protest at his swearing in ceremony. As City Clerk Stephanie Tuin read Mr. Brainard his oath of office, 60 percent of the audience stood and turned their backs on him in silent protest — a remarkable showing for a municipal ceremony on a weekday morning in this small, conservative town. Brainard claimed to the media that he was unaware of the protest, but was sweating after the ceremony. In response to a question about the protest from a KKCO Channel 11 news reporter, Brainard responded “You know, it is what it is …My supporters have been steadfast, and I’m grateful for that.” An unidentified Brainard supporter was overheard saying, “All they did was turn their backs. They have a right to do that. I thought they were very civil. Not nearly as obnoxious as I thought they were going to be.”

Ruth Ehlers, Chair of the Mesa County Republican Party, was also in the audience to support Brainard at his swearing in. Ehlers once famously lamented another troubled local Republican candidate, Jared Wright, who ran successfully for the House Dist. 54 seat in 2012. Wright,who was forced to resign from the Fruita Police Department due to a reported “pattern of dishonesty,” also ran as a fiscal conservative while hiding the fact that he had filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Once this information about Wright was discovered, the local Republican party howled for Wright to step down. At the time, Ehlers publicly stated, “… most of us were unpleasantly surprised when details of Mr. Wright’s work record and personal bankruptcy became public….It’s unfortunate that the voters did not have this information before the election took place. As a result, we find ourselves with a candidate working to restore his credibility.” Ehlers has made no similar public comment about Mr. Brainard, who assumed his seat on Council amid criminal assault charges brought against him after the vote for City Council was taken. In the words of Ms. Ehlers, it’s unfortunate the voters did not have more information on Mr. Brainard’s character prior to the election.

Brainard No Longer at West Star

The day after Brainard was sworn into office, two local TV stations reported that his employment with West Star Aviation had ended. Brainard had worked for the company for eight years and was Vice President of Business Development at the time he left — a quite high up position in the company. West Star officials refused to confirm the terms of the separation, but Mr. Brainard’s photo and contact information have been wiped from West Star’s website. Last month, West Star employees were forced to run outside and barricade the driveways and walkways surrounding West Star’s buildings after information about a planned protest against Brainard at his workplace appeared on the “Rick Brainard Resign Grand Junction Facebook” page. Brainard has already been forced off the Community Hospital Foundation Board and the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce Board, according to a statement by Chamber head Diane Schwenke on the organization’s Facebook page. Removing him from Council if he does not step down will require citizens to gather over 5,000 valid signatures within 30 days, and the effort cannot start until he has been in office 3 months. The recall effort, now assured by Brainard’s assuming office amid his legal morass, is likely to cost the City $45,000 – $50,000.

Thanks to Mr. Brainard, this sordid saga of this faulty Chamber of Commerce-selected candidate continues to drag on in Grand Junction, and is even working its way into local lore and culture. People are starting to use the phrase “doing a Brainard,” to refer to someone who fails to step down gracefully when the situation desperately calls for it, and local songwriter Will Whalen, has  published a surprisingly catchy folk tune online called The Brainard Blues. It’s available free to everyone.

The refrain to song goes:

Well, now I know just what to do
If I don’t like what I hear from you
I’ll just knock you down to make you shut up
As long as I’m bigger and well-connected,
Stronger than you and just-elected,
I can just knock you down to make you shut up

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