Mesa County Commissioners working to seize control of Mesa County Board of Public Health

MCPHD Director Jeff Kuhr, Ph.D. won plaudits for helping Mesa County get through the Covid-19 pandemic

Mesa County Public Health Department (MCPHD) Director Dr. Jeff Kuhr has been under attack by the Mesa County Commissioners, who for some reason have been working for months to generate credible reasons to fire him. Commissioner Janet Rowland in particular has targeted Kuhr, accusing him of financial impropriety and grievous errors in MCPHD’s procurement processes. The Commissioners have ordered the Mesa County Board of Public Health to fire Kuhr, but they refused, saying there is no actual evidence that he’s intentionally done anything wrong. Not only that, but the State of Colorado rates MCPHD as having the lowest possible financial risk (pdf) in its compliance with federal and state contracts, making it clear that the state trusts MCPHD, but our right wing commissioners don’t. (This financial risk rating is done every three years, but the state skipped it during the pandemic. The MCPHD is currently undergoing this analysis again.)

And the Commissioners appear to be winning their battle to force Kuhr out.

The entire Mesa County Board of Health resigned today, caving to the political pressure the Commissioners have put on them for months to fire Dr. Kuhr, with little actual reason to justify it.

We can only wonder what the real reasons are for the Commissioners’ attack on Kuhr.

He was hired in 2011 to rebuild MCPHD and by all measures has done a good job, growing the agency, making sure Mesa County residents stay safe when patronizing restaurants, child care centers, tattoo parlors and public pools, policing air pollution and assuring the agency is overall effective and fiscally responsible.

In mid-April of 2020, just a few weeks after the onset of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic, Janet Rowland changed the header on her profile page to the above graphic and started agitating against the only public health measures available at the time to reduce mass spread of Covid-19. At the time, the virus was virulent, often deadly and highly communicable.

But it’s no secret that Rowland has been an ardent enemy of public health, decrying the things MCPHD needed to promote during the pandemic to protect public safety, like social distancing, masking and vaccinations.

During her 2020 campaign for county commissioner and before Covid vaccines were available, Rowland fought Covid-19 precautions and pumped out disinformation about Coronavirus that was linked to QAnon.  Her social media posts claimed Covid-19 was no more deadly than the flu. She agitated against physical distancing and the temporary shutdown of non-essential businesses, the only tools available to society at the time to limit the spread of what was then a highly communicable and often deadly virus. Rowland promoted Alex Jones’ “InfoWars” conspiracy theory that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control was intentionally inflating the number of Covid deaths, claiming hospitals got more funding if people died of Covid. 

It all showed how out of touch Rowland was with what was going on and what had to be done to stem the spread of the virus. And it was dangerous.

One of County Commissioner Janet Rowland’s Fox News Facebook posts from her campaign, spreading misinformation about the Covid pandemic. Fox News spread dangerous misinformation about the Coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic.

Her actions and statements during her campaign alone might explain Rowland’s extraordinary hostility towards Jeff Kuhr and the Mesa County Public Health Department, but when you add that the Health Department also offers reproductive health services, like condoms and birth control and stigma-free treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases, it’s easy to see how conservatives could take an interest in dismantling the agency and imposing their own preferences on it.

To try to prove Kuhr had willfully engaged in wrongdoing, the Commissioners did a financial audit of MCPHD’s use of County purchasing cards, or “P-cards.” They audit found Kuhr used “P-Cards” to buy about $219 worth of alcohol at after-work meetings that he held to connect with his staff. The purchase violated the rules, which gave the commissioners something to jump on. Kuhr admitted he made a mistake by purchasing the alcohol for his staff and paid all the money back, but that didn’t satisfy the commissioners.

In a February 13, 2023 article in the Daily Sentinel, Rowland said buying alcohol with taxpayer dollars was “a very good reason” to fire Kuhr, but after she gave the audit to District Attorney Dan Rubinstein in hopes he would press criminal charges against Kuhr, the D.A. instead advised the County not to press charges. Rowland then changed her tune, and started a new tactic: accusing Kuhr of bigger financial wrongdoing.

The County paid for another audit at a cost to taxpayers of $49,000.

This audit revealed that Kuhr had approved an ongoing consulting contract with a grant writer named Roxane White, and paid her $120,000/year for four years, for a total of $480,000.

About this Kuhr says, “In my experience with [Roxane White], there was no better person for making connections and getting funds.”

Kuhr was right.

White’s fundraising efforts for MCPHD paid off, producing around $6 million for the health department, $4.5 million in new market tax credits (a federal financial program to stimulate business and investment in low income communities, which has stimulated $8 of private investment for every $1 of federal funding supplied) and another $1.5 million in grants to fund Mesa County’s new Clifton Campus.

Janet Rowland probably did the most damage to current vaccination efforts through her campaign last year where she denigrated masking and embraced Q-Anon conspiracy theories about Covid-19.

Rowland’s complaint was that Kuhr had awarded White the contracts without going through a competitive bidding process. But Kuhr says his Board would likely have awarded the contract to White anyway, even if there had been a bidding process, because of her knowledge, background, connections and proven skill at bringing in money.

Rowland might have taken exception to White because White was formerly Chief of Staff to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. This might have been unpalatable to our current right wing board of County Commissioners.

This is one of the reasons why public health departments are completely separate entities from the county administration, with their own separate boards, funding mechanisms, leadership and decision-making structures: to insulate them from politicians who want to interfere.

About the Roxane White contracts, Kuhr said, “I was not going to renew our second or third contract with Roxane, but [then-County Commissioner] Rose [Pugliese] suggested I should. Cool, calm waters with one set of commissioners turns into a tsunami with another set.”

Rowland also took exception to a $20,000 grant MCPHD made to the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP), saying the grant had “no deliverables.”

Conspiracy-laden, anti-public health post from Janet Rowland’s campaign Facebook page, August 14, 2020

Kuhr laments that the County Commissioners don’t understand that “deliverables” in public health are often less tangible and more apparent down the line, seen in improved lives, opportunities and overall health for County residents, through things like increased economic opportunity, healthier lifestyles, better wages, prevention of injury, and other things that are hard to measure.

Kuhr explained the donation by saying,

“GJEP totally addresses the social determinants of health, and when I contribute to them, I get to weigh in on what they’re working on. I’m all about investing in local organizations and then using my team to help them succeed. Curtis [Englehart] asked if we’d donate. … It was very similar to the $10,000 per year that we donated to the Grand Junction Sports Commission, which was at the request of Scott McInnis.  GJEP funds its operations from donations. Through their business recruitment and expansion in Mesa County, they focus on increasing our average annual wage. We’re also working with them to create more opportunities such as apprenticeships and technical training, so that we get more of our graduating seniors to have a ‘what’s next’ plan. Only about 50% of our graduates have some sort of career in mind. My health department focuses on the social determinants of health; economic stability is one of those determinants. Whenever we can partner with someone and enlighten them on the value of public health in their sector, it’s a win. Every industry has some sort of public health role.”

Kuhr laments that the County Commissioners don’t really get how public health works.

Here’s a list of what Dr. Kuhr has faced from the County Commissioners since last September, as the Commissioners have struggled to generate reasons to remove him:

  1. Forensic Investigation;
  2. District Attorney Investigation;
  3. Commissioners went to the Daily Sentinel’s Editorial Board asking them to write about Kuhr’s financial wrongdoing. Janet handed them an copy of forensic audit report.
  4. The Daily Sentinel published an article February 12, featuring the DA investigation the following Sunday, defaming Kuhr.
  5. Janet Rowland dug up all exit interviews that mentioned Kuhr since 2014 and gave them to the Board of Health, so they could see negative comments about him;
  6. Janet Rowland asked MCPHD Board President, Will Hays, to allow former employees to talk to him about Kuhr;
  7. The Commissioners cut in half the amount of money they contribute to MCPHD;
  8. The Commissioners told the Board of Health they will not enter into any sort of intergovernmental agreement until KUHR is gone;
  9. Rowland solicited negative comments about Kuhr from former employees;
  10. Rowland then sent the negative comments to the Board of Health and demanded they tell her how they’re going to address it;
  11. Rowland has been making the continuous claim that Kuhr intentionally lost receipts for alcohol purchases.

Rowland made headlines across the country with her “beastiality” comments about gay marriage on a state-wide PBS television show in 2006. Her comments show a lack of basic understanding of humanity.

The list makes it clear the Commissioners’ attack on Kuhr is about far more than Kuhr not going through the proper procurement processes or misusing P-cards.

Kuhr admits he has had some confusion about how the health department has awarded contracts. He also admits to having made procedural errors in how the health department has awarded contracts and used purchasing cards, and is willing to rectify that. These are mistakes anyone could have made, since there are a lot of complicated policies and procedures guiding these activities.

The Commissioners even adopted a Plan of Action, most recently revised on May 12, aimed at improving the procurement process at MCHD, but it appears they are in so much of a hurry to push Kuhr out the door, they won’t even consider giving Kuhr and MCPHD a chance to implement it.

On Monday, May 22, the County Commissioners plan to hold a hearing at which they are expected to pick all new members to sit on of the Board of Health, and thus seize control over the Mesa County Public Health Department and lead to Kuhr’s firing unless something happens to stop this sad and desperate move.

Janet Rowland’s Facebook post captured May 15, 2020, casting doubt on the CDC’s count of U.S. Coronavirus deaths, in line with Alex Jones’ “Infowars” conspiracy theory.


County Commissioner, District 1 Cody Davis 970-244-1605
County Commissioner, District 2 Bobbie Daniel 970-244-1604
County Commissioner, District 3 Janet Rowland 970-244-1606

  34 comments for “Mesa County Commissioners working to seize control of Mesa County Board of Public Health

  1. Janet Rowland is a straight up liar. Her covid remarks alone show it!

    The CDC didn’t drastically reduce the number of deaths attributable to COVID-19, but posts making that bogus claim have been circulating widely — with the help of Defeated Former Guy, who retweeted one such claim on Aug. 30,2020.

    For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”

    That means that 6% of those who died with COVID-19 through Aug. 15 didn’t have any other reported conditions.

    It does not mean that the CDC has “quietly updated” the number of deaths associated with COVID-19 to a fraction of what had been reported. It’s also not new information; the agency has been providing the same information since May.

    Ms. Rowland seems to go along with tRump and the Qanon conspiracies. Isn’t that wonderful? Sarcasm.

    The 6% figure includes cases where COVID-19 was listed as the only cause of death. That does not mean that someone who has high blood pressure or diabetes who dies of Covid didn’t die of Covid-19. They did!

    Hospitals deliberately miscoding patients as COVID-19 are not supported by any evidence. Look up the facts. She lies and twists things as do other false republicans. She and others have completely lied and taken the truth out of context.

  2. Anne, you should look into how Jeff lost two employees, Diane Williams who was his number two and Mary Cornforth who wrote grants and coordinated his scheduling. This was before the commissioners attacked at a huge level. He also has Steve King on his payroll.

  3. The GJ Sentinel has commented in two articles in support of Colorado proposed legislation bill HR23-1180-County Commissioner Elections! Essentially the bill would allow expansion of the Mesa County (MC) board to 5 commissioners. The criteria MC meets is that the population of MC is >70,000, (2022- MC pop. at >158,000). Contrast this point with a county of <70,000 pop. that qualifies for a 3 member board.
    Increasing to 5 members allows diversification of (a) board. A desired outcome considering the homogenous "tribunal" that currently staffs the MC board.
    Of note: Diversification drives evolution, creativity, understanding, strives to promote acceptance, investing (capitalist know this!) etc.etc.
    Let's Go Darwin!

    • I like the idea, although there’s no guarantee five would be any better. Just look at the school board. Also, it was on the local ballot a few years ago to expand the commission to five. It went down in flames, mostly because of the extremely generous salaries our commissioners make. New commissioner Bobbie Daniel makes $101,000 and change; Rowland and Davis aren’t far behind.

      • I agree it might be a tenuous proposal but diligent planning and effort could make a board of 5 possible.
        To me it just-makes-sense especially given the population load of MC and the associated complexities of any county.

      • The most beneficial component of this legislation is to change the election of each commissioner from an at-large basis to just the voters in the district that they represent.
        That would go a long way to getting representation for some of the non-majority voices in Mesa County. I think the legislation is a great idea long overdue.

    • Do you realize what Janet Rowlands background is? She was social worker. So, she does know the corruption in the department.

  4. It is telling that they don’t even post who they are considering appointing. Who want to take bets on one grifting chiropractor/failed city council candidate being in the mix?

  5. Just like most people in our county who got vaccinated, followed recommendations of distancing and wore masks, never got COVID, and kept updated by the amazing Health Department website and page for COVID information, I am extremely thankful and proud of the work done by the MCPHD, and so should Janet Rowland be. The embarrassing number of practically 1/3 of the population in our county who got sick with COVID was precisely for not following those recommendations. That is a direct consequence of the misinformation spread by anyone to whom education and knowledge mean a threat. Now Janet shamefully stands next to those, while most of us proudly stand by our Health Department workers, its volunteers, and Dr. Kuhr’s leadership committment. Wouldn’t it be good if we could be proud of her too?

  6. I just saw the name Tim Foster, Kuhr’s lawyer…and being new here I just had to look him up.
    Much to my surprise, he is someone you pretty much despise and Kuhr, someone you admire, is hiring him! How galling.

    And even more ironic was the lengthy thread you wrote about cronyism at CMU and how horrible it is…and that you could never imagine cronyism existing amongst the people you approve of, like Mesa County Health, is the biggest joke of all.

    Corruption always exists. That you believe that you and your ilk are immune is pitiful.

    • You say you’re new around here. It would serve you well to hide and watch for perhaps a year to figure out how things work around here, for good and for bad. If you’d rather run the risk of looking like a complete idiot and lose all credibility, I won’t stand in your way.

    • Please see a doctor, Alice. As the more obvious symptoms of a mental disorder include claiming to know what other people are thinking, answering your own inane rhetorical questions, and unintelligible outrage. But in that breathless rant to be bandying about terms like immunity and cronyism, esp in this situation? Well, I def don’t want to say that’s IRONIC because you clearly neither know what that means nor seem capable of a sense of humor…let alone a coherent thought.

  7. This is an extremely alarming coup of the Health Department. It should be frightening to anyone who benefits from any and all services they provide, as well as local health care providers. A major factor in the covid crisis was locals who believed these unhinged, ignorant carnival barkers and refused to get immunized only to end up at the doors of local hospitals in crisis. All health care providers in this community should rise up and understand that Janet Rowland intends to implement far right agendas that take away your rights to practice science based medicine. I worked as a Volunteer at the HD throughout the Covid Crisis and saw first hand a well oiled machine that provided great services at a time when this community really needed it. I have a MS in Public Health so feel qualified to commend the HD for the services they provide. How is it that none of these health board people have any science credentials and know so little. These criticisms are ludicrous and that is how you know this is a political heist. I see another lawsuit coming our way that taxpayers will be on the line for and feel he has every right to go forward with.

  8. For those of you who want to be informed out there, you should check out this website that shows what Mesa County Public Health is working on, and has been working on to keep us healthy and safe.

    As someone who survived a stroke during the pandemic, Janet should be grateful that Dr. Kuhr was doing everything to protect people who’s immunities may be compromised. I am a caregiver out here in the community, and every time I get a chance to thank Dr. Kuhr, I do!

    Here’s one for the books. I have helped one of Janet’s relatives for decades. As soon as I found out that people with compromised immune systems would be eligible for the COVID vaccine, I took my friend/client straight down to the Health Department to get her started. She has COPD and is at extreme risk for not only catching COVID, but dying with it. Getting her in the building and through the process was seamless. The staff did an incredible job making something super scary, not so bad at all. We were in and out within 5 minutes. This was before the vaccine site was opened at the convention center. Dr. Kuhr and his staff put together an amazing plan to keep vulnerable people safe.

    As for my other client, who has lived in my home for many years, I took him to the convention center once it was open and that was really hard for him, having to overcome his fear of being in public, but we had great masks, supplied by the Health Department for my client on Medicaid and for us caregivers out here trying to do our jobs. We ran into Dr. Kuhr at this even because it was the first day they gave the J & J vaccine and he was there supporting his staff. He saw a need to get homebound clients vaccinated in a different way, and according to the above website, Health Department staff went to the homes of 300 of our community members and gave them their vaccines so they would not have to be compromised by the Janet Rowland anti vaxers here in the community.

    The reason I keep referring to Dr. Kuhr instead of Jeff, is because people need to understand that Dr. Kuhr has his PhD and Janet Rowland, hmmmmmm what is her educational background. I don’t see a PhD behind her name, so I will continue to get my Health Care advise from Dr. Kuhr.

    As for Alice’s comments, the Executive Director of the Health Department is not the one who awards contracts. His staff probably does that, and buys P Cards. In my experience as a Human Resources Manager, the person who runs the organization normally does not take care of the day to day functions. They lead the organization, especially during hard times like trying to protect the uninformed in our community. That is what Dr. Kuhr has been doing, and thanks to him and his staff, the client who lived in my home during the pandemic never got COVID and thankfully, did not die from it like the 505 people who did die in our community.

    Dr. Kuhr and the Mesa County Board of Health deserve a huge thanks for helping with everything they have all of these years trying to make Mesa County a safe and healthy place to live. It is a shame that we have lost our extremely experiences Board of Health that existed before Janet Rowland’s meddling. How much has she really cost Mesa County in taxpayer funds, and can we now hold her accountable for this mess? I know she has spent more than the couple hundred dollars Dr. Kuhr spent to thank his staff.


    • Well said! I was a volunteer for the first round of vaccination, working as a retired immunizing Pharmacist.
      As for Janet Rowland and her co-conspirators, I am as disgusted and angered as most of the rest of us. I am tired of their shenanigans. And, as always, I wonder what their goals truly are. What do they hope to accomplish by destroying everything they touch? If they destroy the local health department, what are they expecting to happen? The next time we have a crisis of some sort, they will be responsible for the damage done. Is that what they want? There has to be some sort of retribution for willful stupidity!

      • Linda,

        Thanks for volunteering. That was a tough time to be in public health and I commend anyone who was willing to put themselves in that situation.

    • As far as being responsible for awarding contracts…Kuhr himself said he awarded the contract to the Hickenlooper “grant lady” because he knew the board would approve her. The position was supposed to be bid competitively. So much for rules.

      I know this is probably an antiquated view but the Board of Commisioners has an oversight responsibility and it’s weird to suppose they are asking for Kuhr’s firing because they don’t like birth control…as Ann intimated.

      And as for your statements about COVID response, I would love to comment but Ann doesn’t allow that.

      My husband and I moved here pretty recently. It is fascinating to see how divided this place is based on political leanings. It’s a real battle.

      • Alice, commemts are always welcome, but I don’t let people use my comment section to spread lies or harmful disinformation, for example relating to elections or viruses.

  9. Janet Rowland is completely unhinged. She and her commissioner cronies will not stop until they get Kuhr fired. She is a QAnon Quack willing to dismantle Mesa County Public Health at all costs. I’ve been working in public health for 11 years now as a nurse. We’ve used Mesa County Public Health services for many of my patients and you could not find a better run public health department and that’s directly related to Dr. Kuhr’s leadership. The employees at MCPHD trust and value Dr. Kuhr. He is an overwhelming popular leader, and for good reason. He runs a tight ship, with high expectations of his employees, but without micromanaging. Mesa County has been steadily trending upward in a positive direction regarding social determinants, i,e, more outdoor active lifestyle opportunities, more outdoor industry jobs vs.boom and bust economy, a long awaited recreation center. We are steadily on track to improving life in the Grand Valley and Dr. Kuhr has played a big part in that.

  10. Rowland is trouble, more than ever now that McGinnis is not there to restrain her. She, like her political buddy Tina and the other Republican criminals, will end up costing taxpayers loads of money before she is finished. Yes, a recall would help. This is the worst run county I have ever lived in, even worse than the one controlled by the mafia back east.

  11. “Kuhr admits he has had some confusion about how the health department has awarded contracts. He also admits to having made procedural errors in how the health department has awarded contracts and used purchasing cards, and is willing to rectify that.”

    This fellow has had this job since 2011 and is confused about how the department awards contracts???

    I looked up his salary and wasn’t able to find it but I bet he makes a boatload…

    But like Ann says, “things are very complicated over at the Health Department.”

    Maybe he just needs a pay raise. 🙂

  12. As a former employee of Mesa County public health for 12+ years, I can tell you there is much more going on then what meets the eye.

    • I can tell you are a trustworthy source of information…anonymous insider/dingbat alleging a deeper conspiracy without evidence

  13. This is more than just disgusting loaded with disgusting people. This kind of crap is going on all over our country which is becoming less ours than “theirs” every day.

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