Former Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese elected state House Minority Leader

Rose Pugliese supported disastrous former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters in the 2018 election despite the fact that Tina was completely unqualified to be a County Clerk. Tina was running  against Bobbie Gross, who was already certified to run state and local elections, was managing the DMV and had more than a decade of experience in the Clerk’s office.

Former two-term Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, who moved to Colorado Springs in 2020 to run for the state House District 14 seat (and won the seat), has been elected Republican House Minority Leader in the Colorado Legislature. She replaces Rep. Mike Lynch (R), who resigned as Minority Leader on Wednesday, 1/24/24 after it was revealed that he had been arrested in September, 2022 on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) and possessing a firearm while intoxicated. Lynch pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service.

Pugliese: Global warming is just a “personal opinion” that shouldn’t be taught in D-51 schools

In 2010, Pugliese represented a group called “Balanced Education for Everyone” (BEE), that proclaimed global warming was “junk science.” BEE promoted the view that teaching about global warming in schools frightened children unnecessarily. Pugliese presented District 51 School Board with a petition that she wrote herself, containing over 700 signatures, that demanded D-51 make its science teachers stop teaching global warming to students. Pugliese, who is not a scientist, told the School Board that climate change was “not a proven scientific theory” and that “there is no evidence to support it.” She said climate change was just a “personal view.”

The D-51 Board politely accepted Pugliese’s petition, but did not act on her advice.

Pugliese tried to gut the Riverfront Project

A beautiful section of the Audubon Section of the Riverfront Trails Project that Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese worked to destroy.

As County Commissioner in 2013, Pugliese worked to gut all County funding for the Colorado Riverfront Project that now consists of long, beautiful, much-loved walking and biking paths along the riverfront.

In November, 2013, Pugliese sent an email to her supporters asking for their help to kill the Riverfront Project, saying it was a waste of “hard-earned taxpayer money.” Her email said, in part:

From: <>
Date: Sat, Nov 16, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Conservative friends,

We need your help!

As you may be aware, [County Commissioner] John Justman and I elected to pull
funding for the Riverfront Commission. It is approximately
$17,000. The City also gives $17,000. These funds are used
to staff a PART-TIME position for the Riverfront Commission.

I am sure many of our constituents would love to make $34,000
working part-time!

When I asked what this person’s job is, no one really seemed
to know. Then, I was told that this position was used to
coordinate volunteers and plan the riverfront concert series.

The Riverfront Project survived Pugliese’s efforts to kill it.

Sued by former clients for giving bad legal advice

In 2015, Pugliese was slapped with two civil malpractice lawsuits by former law clients alleging she had given them false legal advice that had cost them financially. Mesa County District Judge David Bottger ruled that Pugliese did, in fact, give the clients incorrect legal advice and he invalidated a settlement agreement between the two clients that Pugliese had written based on her incorrect advice.

Promoting Christianity using taxpayer money

In 2017, Pugliese voted with Commissioners John Justman and Scott McInnis to enter into a contract (pdf) to pay $57,360 in taxpayer funds to Project 1.27, a Christian ministry that works through churches to recruit Christian foster and adoptive families, to assure children are “cared for within Christian communities.”

Coincidentally at the time Pugliese’s friend Janet Rowland was employed as the national director of Project 1.27.

Project 1.27 engages in  “[foster] training with a solid Christian perspective,” and provides training to “Christian parents wishing to foster and adopt.” The group’s website makes no mention of recruiting families belonging to any other religion, or families of no religion.

The county’s contract required 20 hours per month be spent on “faith-based recruitment.”

This use of taxpayer money to effectively promote Christianity was a clear violation of the separation of church and state in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

As an attorney Pugliese should have known better and worked to protect the County against even the appearance that it was violating the law. Instead, she went along with it.

Repeating lies and spewing disinformation

In April of 2020,  the Daily Sentinel outed Rose Pugliese for spreading false information on social media that was put out by Colorado Counties, Inc.

Pugliese claimed wrongly that Governor Jared Polis was intentionally withholding federal funds intended for local governments under the Coronavirus relief bill approved by Congress in March of 2020, and he was going to use those badly-needed funds to balance the state’s budget, forsaking people in rural Colorado who desperately needed the funds.

But Pugliese failed to read the bill.

The bill that Congress, including the Republican-led Senate, had approved designated relief funds only to state and local governments that served populations of over 500,000 people, so many small rural towns and counties did not qualify for the funds.

Under Pugliese, County Administrator Frank Whidden was a total disaster for the County

The Commissioners, including Pugliese, assigned Mesa County Administrator Frank Whidden to simultaneously head the County’s IT and Human Resources Departments in order to save money. Whidden’s behavior brought a slew of lawsuits upon the County. Taxpayers also footed the bill for Whidden to get a degree in Family Therapy from an online school, after which he started a private counseling business on the side while he was still employed at the County, without telling the commissioners.(Photo:

Former County Administrator Frank Whidden, who served under Pugliese, proved to be an embarrassing and expensive disaster for the County.

Whidden started working for the County’s IT Department 2011, he was appointed County Administrator on December 8, 2014 and he resigned in August of 2019 amid great controversy and numerous lawsuits.

In a ridiculous attempt by the county to save money, not only was Whidden the County Administrator from 2014-2019, but the Commissioners also let him head the County’s IT department AND Human Resources Department all at the same time. In an ironic twist, the Human Resources Department was the department responsible for handling complaints from employees.

And complaints there were — about Frank Whidden.

Several female County employees charged Whidden with making improper sexual advances towards them. The County had to pay the cost of hiring an outside investigator to look into the sexual harassment complaints. During the investigation, the Commissioners put Whidden on paid administrative leave where he continued to earn his full pay of $180,000/year until he resigned two months later. One of the employees who complained about Whidden’s improper advances told the Daily Sentinel that “it was not uncommon for Whidden to make lewd comments at work, allegedly telling some female employees that he ‘didn’t need to take Viagra.’ She said that “if Whidden liked an employee, they would thrive, but if he didn’t, he would find ways to get rid of them.”

Under Pugliese, Whidden and the County were the subjects of several age discrimination lawsuits that were filed in federal court in Denver. The suits alleged that Whidden laid off six older workers in the county’s Information Technology Office while retaining younger workers. The county paid out financial settlements to two of the six workers to the tune of $62,500 each. The other lawsuits continued.

One of the lawsuits, brought by a female employee who had been with the County for 26 years and was laid off in 2016, revealed that while Whidden was laying off IT workers in an effort to cut the county’s budget, taxpayers were simultaneously reimbursing him for his costs of obtaining a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling. The County reimbursed Whidden over a period of several years for courses he took at an online school based in San Diego, California.

While employed by the County in all of these positions, and without telling the Commissioners, Whidden also opened his own private counseling business and was taking clients on the side. Whidden had told the commissioners he was taking classes in mental health and suicide prevention because suicide was such a big problem in the County, but did not tell them he was pursuing or opening a private counseling business.

In 2018, the Commissioners gave Whidden a 37% pay increase that they approved in secret.

Whidden finally resigned from the County in August of 2019 amid all this controversy, leaving the County to pick up the pieces — and expenses — he left behind.

No leadership during the Coronavirus pandemic

Benita Phillips, R.N., B.S.N. speaks to Mesa County Commissioners at their Nov. 9, 2020 meeting, asking them to please encourage people to wear masks to help rein in the pandemic.

In 2020, during the worst phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, all of the Mesa County Commissioners including Rose Pugliese, were silent about the pandemic until an RN appeared at a county commissioner meeting and literally begged the Commissioners to urge all county residents to wear masks when out and about, and avoid gatherings to reduce the spread of the virus and help preserve our local economy.

…and more, all bad

Under Pugliese, Mesa County employees endured a long pay freeze and treated county employees extremely poorly.

We could also take about about epic disaster that was the Mesa County Clerk’s office under Pugliese’s pal Tina Peters, who was similarly completely unqualified to hold the County Clerk’s office and who has cost County taxpayers millions of dollars as a result of her crazy escapades while in office and beyond. 

We wish the 19 person Republican caucus well under Rose Pugliese, but we won’t hold our breath. We also won’t be surprised if Pugliese’s turn as Minority Leader leads to a well-deserved complete demise of the Republican Party in Colorado.

  9 comments for “Former Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese elected state House Minority Leader

  1. Glad to see the Colorado GOP again borrowing a page out of the Michigan GOP playbook by elevating an equally tarnished, unhinged, and “incompetent dumpster fire” member to their highest position. I admit though, this steady and vomitous churn of leadership sure has been an entertaining clown show. In fact, I can’t help but wonder where they keep digging up these doltish, desperately power-hungry, and ill-considered charlatans from. Especially since each appears to have more skeletons in their closet than the predecessor. At this point, from the cemetery that’s seemingly become the state GOP party I wouldn’t be surprise if Rose herself dug ol’ Dave Williams’ grave and buried him by leaking the DUI report to get herself the Chair. So all aboard another crazy train destined for derailment! Let’s start the countdown on her tenure as the next doomed conductor! Perhaps the next (dog) whistlestop will be her pal Tina Peters getting convicted and sentenced to prison, putting a harsh spotlight on that “election integrity” position Rose lobbied her into. At which point she will have to either double down on that tired persecution narrative or cut Tina loose all together…either of which will only cannibalize the party further as it constituents continue dwindling from die-hard conservative voters to COVID-swindled corpses. Good riddance to all

  2. Ms. Pugliese et al. need to update their resumes using this time stamped, well documented , well written journalism piece.
    At a minimum their LinkedIn accounts should reflect this information and to what extent they participated in the MC network of deception and incompetence. HA.

  3. I’m glad she’s the problem of Colorado Springs. She’ll fit right in with the wingnut kooks over there.

  4. Hi Mary, Yes, you are correct. In 2021, Commissioner Janet Rowland tried to appoint Rose as Mesa County Attorney, even though Rose had zero experience as a County attorney, had been sued for her work in private practice (and was found guilty), and the predecessor County Attorney, Patrick Coleman, who had lots of experience as a county attorney, had earned praise from the commissioners for doing a “stellar” job, and had done nothing to merit being fired. But the commissioners fired anyway him so Janet could appoint her friend Rose. Firing Coleman cost taxpayers $120,000 for his severance package. Here’s my article about that whole debacle:

  5. Thank you Anne Landman for this comprehensive review of “politics as usual” in Mesa County in the form of Puglusi. I knew of some of these, but the rest, for some reason are not surprises. I can’t remember, but didn’t commissioners approach her to come back as the county attorney after yet another scandal? Anyway – so glad she represents such a minority in Colorado’s legislature. May it stay that way…

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