In an outrageous display of unabashed Mesa County Republican cronyism, Commissioner Janet Rowland is working hard to install her pal, former County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, into the position of Mesa County Attorney, the highest-paid position in the county. The position would double the salary Rose use to earn when she was commissioner just before Janet.
The situation portends great danger for the County, since the Commissioners have tremendous power, no oversight and Janet already has a long and worrisome track record of impropriety and unethical behavior.
Taxpayers are footing a sizable bill for Janet’s effort to install Rose as County Attorney
First, people need to know that on January 19, 2021 the Commissioners voted unanimously to fire County Attorney Patrick Coleman for no clear reason. Coleman had worked for the County for over six years and all of the commissioners praised him at the same meeting at which they fired him (video), assuring him repeatedly that his firing had nothing whatsoever to do with him. Rowland said Coleman’s firing had “nothing to do with his abilities.” Commissioner Scott McInnis said Coleman’s firing “had nothing to do with his performance,” that he is “one of the most capable [attorneys]…” and he “has a stellar, statewide reputation.” Commissioner Cody Davis said Coleman had “great character and integrity” and former Commissioner John Justman even appeared to defend Coleman, and added firing him was “an expensive thing for the County to do.”
Justman was right on that count.
Firing Coleman cost County taxpayers over $120,000 to pay for his severance package.
Coleman appeared to have no idea why this was happening.
Speaking at the podium after the commissioners canned him, Coleman, his voice quivering as he nearly broke into tears, pointed out that he had had 6 annual job reviews that were all outstanding, and 34 years of experience in law practice working with four different government entities and under “a lot of managers.” Coleman said that “integrity is key,” and pointed out that his office has drawn “no harassment complaints or a whiff of scandal” in the whole time he was at the helm.
But maybe that was the problem.
Janet seems to be seeking a County Attorney who has no experience and will be likely to rubber stamp whatever she wants to do without making any attempt to restraint her, her behavior, or her radical ideology or grandstanding.
And there is no one with a law degree who is more likely to do this than her friend, former County Commissioner Rose Pugliese.
In defending her effort to make Rose the new County Attorney, Janet hasn’t touted Rose’s qualifications for the job, because Rose has zero experience in such a position. Instead, Janet merely says she wants someone who will “implement her values and guiding principles.”
No experience needed, just a willingness to defend whatever Janet wants to do
That’s it. No experience necessary to do this job, just a willingness to do whatever Janet wants.
To give credit where credit is due, Janet is being straightforward here, and therein lies the danger the county faces if this appointment is allowed to go through.
I sounded the alarm bells about re-electing Janet to the position of County Commissioner many times, for many reasons, all of which I’ve perviously outlined in this blog:
From her unapologetic plagiarism to promoting InfoWars lies and Q-Anon conspiracy theories to dissuading people from wearing masks at the height of the pandemic, to fighting health authorities’ efforts to contain Covid-19, to her religious grandstanding to the point of drawing the threat of a major lawsuit onto the County, to her willful misunderstanding of the law, to her out-and-out promotion of right wing domestic extremist lies, her homophobic comments on a state-wide TV show that made national news, and more, Janet clearly considers elected office a platform to engage in unethical, offensive and even illegal behavior, if she can get away with it.
The only thing appointing her pal Rose as County Attorney will guarantee is that Janet will then have free rein to drag the county into a rat’s nest of Crony Hell, using the office the same obnoxious and dangerous way she has in the past, but this time on steroids.
If we ignore the red flags and allow this to happen, the County will definitely get what it deserves.
PS- One of the two original finalists for the job of County Attorney in March was Andrea Nina Atencio, who is second in charge of the 18-person legal department at the County, and who has been with the department from 2015.