In the wake of Commissioner Janet Rowland’s recent coup over the Mesa County Public Health Department, if the the past is a predictor of future behavior, under Rowland the Health Department is likely in for a significant reduction in its ability to respond to public health threats, and area residents will likely face more danger from emerging health threats.
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Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland wasted no time in taking credit for the contributions towards improving childcare in Mesa County made by former Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr, whom Rowland recently pushed out through an expensive and vicious months-long campaign over a personnel disagreement.
On July 29, Rowland showed off the new Clifton Community Campus at 3270 D 1/2 Road to Governor Jared Polis, crowing that it was “designed to be a community hub featuring an early childhood education center…” without ever mentioning that Public Health Director Kuhr was the one who initiated the big push to expand child care in the county (pdf) and helped the County get funding to make the childcare center possible.
The relationship between Mesa County and the Health Department is governed by the 2012 “Agreement, MCA 2012-079” (pdf), dated June 25, 2012.
The Agreement discusses financing, budgeting, purchasing and personnel policies, and it lays out the overall relationship between the two agencies.
Item #2 of the Agreement says a county commissioner may be appointed to the Board of Health, but Item #10 says:
“10. Points of controversy hereunder will be addressed by a meeting between the Mesa County Board of Health and the Board of County Commissioners.”
Janet Rowland was appointed to the Board of Health on April 25th.
It was a highly controversial appointment at the time.
Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland succeeded in convincing the three new temporary members of the Board of Public Health (BOPH) to vote to put Mesa County Health Department Director Jeff Kuhr on paid leave.
Rowland has been working to push Kuhr out of his job for months.
The stunning part of the BOPH meeting was who was there to support Kuhr.
The audience was packed with prominent longtime local Republican political figures, including former Mesa County Commissioner Kathy Hall, former Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, former CMU President Tim Foster (now Kuhr’s attorney in this matter) and Doug and Jamie Simons, owners of Enstrom Candies. Former County Commissioner Jim Spehar was there, as well as the owners of the Winery and Crossroads Fitness. All spoke in support of Kuhr and urged the BOPH to keep him in his job. Many said how Kuhr has done an exceptional job as head of the Health Department, how grateful they are to him and that these attacks on him amount to some kind of personal vendetta. Many of those who spoke were previously long time supporters of Janet Rowland.
One attendee remarked after the meeting that,
“Every business leader or former community leader that walked out of that room said that Janet has lost her mind.”
District Attorney Dan Rubinstein announced he’s closed the investigation into the Mesa County Commissioners’ allegations of financial wrongdoing by Mesa County Public Health Director Dr. Jeff Kuhr, saying,
“We lack sufficient evidence of anything criminal…” and “…[We] lack sufficient evidence that Mr. Kuhr was personally involved in, or personally directed, any level of reporting that would make him criminally culpable for material misstatements.”
With Janet Rowland at the helm, so far the Commissioners have spent $49,000 in taxpayer funds on a financial audit of Kuhr in an attempt to try find some reason to fire him, in addition digging up and spreading around negative personnel comments about Kuhr from as far back as 2011. So far, everything they’ve found, including a $219 alcohol purchase that has since been reimbursed, have fallen flat. Even four members of the Mesa County Board of Health have said nothing they’ve seen about Kuhr so far rises to the level of a fireable offense. Then they all resigned in protest after learning the Commissioners were going to fire them if they didn’t agree to fire Kuhr.
Updated 5/6/23 to reflect support for the REOPEN movement by the violent, seditious hate group The Proud Boys, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists, and the homophobic comments Rowland made on a statewide political TV show in 2006.
In a move akin to appointing an arsonist as fire chief, Mesa County Commissioners Cody Davis and Bobbie Daniel appointed Commissioner Janet Rowland to the Mesa County Board of Public Health yesterday, Tuesday, April 25.
Rowland has been an outspoken enemy of public health for years.
She fought Covid-19 precautions before vaccines were available and disseminated disinformation about the virus that was linked to QAnon. Her social media posts promoted the notion that Covid-19 was no more deadly than the flu. She said things on social media about the virus that contradicted public health messages instructing people in how to stay safe and reduce spread of what was then a largely deadly virus.
Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland has reported on her personal Facebook page that on the evening of February 24 after getting home from work, she suffered a type of stroke called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. She recognized the signs, called 911 and was rushed to the emergency room. Serial CAT scans over the next 24 hours showed no additional bleeding.
Former Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese was licensed to practice law in 2007.
That’s 13 years ago, and she spent 8 of of those years as Mesa County Commissioner. During her five years as a private practice attorney, Rose Pugliese messed up enough to have a malpractice lawsuit filed against her for giving bad advice. That case went to court and Mesa County District Judge David Bottger ruled that Pugliese did indeed give her clients wrong advice, and proceeded to invalidate a settlement agreement Pugliese had written for her clients based on the bad advice.
We don’t know what else Pugliese did while she was in private practice, but we do know that she has never worked for any local government as an attorney before.
Yet with NO experience as a local government attorney, and short and questionable experience as a private attorney, somehow Rose Pugliese is on a magical trajectory to become the new Mesa County Attorney, overseeing a department of 18 people, and replacing someone with 33 years experience as a local government attorney, six of those as the Mesa County Attorney, six years of outstanding job reviews, and under whom no scandals or improprieties whatsoever occurred in his department all that time.
Write-in candidate Bob Prescott is running a new 30-second TV ad ripping his opponent in the county commissioner race, former two-term Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, for her record of unrepentant plagiarism, condescending homophobic remarks, failed child advocacy and her support of a bizarre effort to sterilize women who become addicted to drugs.
Rowland served the maximum number of terms as commissioner allowed by Colorado law from 2004-2012, but she can run for commissioner again if four or more years have elapsed since she last held office.
And she’s doing it.
“Rerun” candidates used to prevent progress
Colorado Mesa University (CMU) President Tim Foster appears to have quietly asked Mesa County Commissioner candidate Janet Rowland (R) to remove any mention of his name from her campaign Facebook page, effectively un-endorsing her — a reversal of his previous whole-hearted endorsement.
Janet Rowland is running for Mesa County commissioner again, after having been a two-term Commissioner already from 2004-2012. Because of her past in that elected office, we have a historic record showing what she will be like in office if she gets elected again.
For the sake of the county and its taxpayers, it’s probably not something we want to go through again.
Mesa County Commissioner candidate Janet Rowland (R) has been posting misleading information about Coronavirus on her campaign Facebook page that is linked to the nutty beliefs of the conspiracy theory QAnon, and that contradict the messaging of public health authorities telling people what they need to do to stay safe and minimize spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
A search of Daily Sentinel archives for information on Republican Janet Rowland’s first two terms as Mesa County Commissioner (2004-2012) turns up substantial criticism of her by Mesa County residents. These critiques amount to performance evaluations of her by the local electorate during her previous terms in the office.
For those who are unaware, Rowland is currently running for a third term as county commissioner. State law prohibits anyone from serving more than two consecutive terms as County Commissioner. She can run again if at a minimum of four years has elapsed since she previously held the position. That is the case with Rowland and the reason she is able to run again.
But just because the law allows someone to run for extra terms as county commissioner, is it a good idea?
Not in this case.
Former Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, who has already had two terms in the recent past and is now running for a third term, has given Mesa County voters plenty of reasons not to elect her again, but here’s another one, and get ready. This one is kind of creepy.
In 2008, Rowland promoted a program that paid drug-addicted women $300 to get sterilized so they couldn’t reproduce. The program, called Project Prevention, targeted its advertising mainly at women, and 37% of the women who had been sterilized under the program were African-American. In 2009, African-Americans made up just 12.4% of the U.S. population.
Janet Rowland is running for Mesa County Commissioner.
She’s already been a Mesa County Commissioner — from January, 2005 to January, 2013 — but that doesn’t mean her being commissioner again is a good idea. It arguably is not a good idea. From her previous two terms, we have an abundance of experience with her and know what is in store if Janet Rowland gets another chance to be Commissioner.
So let’s take a look at the past and see what it tells us.
Morally and ethically challenged
Certainly Janet has done some good things through her career, like trying to address child abuse and finding homes for foster kids. While those endeavors are laudable, we also need to take into account all the things she’s done that have set a poor example for kids, and our entire community and that have harmed the County.
Shortly after losing statewide election for lieutenant governor as Bob Beauprez’s running mate in 2006, and while she was previously Mesa County Commissioner, Janet was a guest columnist for the Grand Junction Free Press, at the time a competing newspaper to the Daily Sentinel. She wrote several articles for the Free Press until one day a sharp reader noticed Janet had lifted most of one of her columns word for word from a government-published pamphlet, and brought this information to the attention of the Free Press’s editor.
The Daily Sentinel reported on Rowland’s plagiarism on February 3, 2007:
A Mesa County official has plagiarized a government substance abuse booklet in her two most recent columns in the Grand Junction Free Press, that newspaper’s editor confirmed Friday.
The majority of Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland’s Feb. 1 column in the Free Press, titled “The importance of a strong parent-child bond,” was lifted verbatim from a 2006 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism publication titled, “Making a Difference: Talk to Your Teen About Alcohol.”
A reading of Rowland’s unattributed column and the text of the booklet revealed the two are virtually identical. The only differences were found in the column’s first sentence and its lead into several bullet points.
The editor said if Rowland had been a staff writer, she probably would have been fired.
Janet’s first reaction to the plagiarism charge was to claim she couldn’t even remember writing the columns. (Denial.) When that failed to tamp down the controversy, she next said the information she used in her columns had been intended for “mass duplication anyhow,” adding that if people wanted to make what she did out as something evil, that was THEIR prerogative. (Sour grapes.) Next, she blamed the plagiarism on others, saying she had included the necessary attributions in her column, but Free Press staff had edited them out. (Lying and blaming.) Free Press management quickly produced the emails that contained the articles exactly as they had received them from Janet for publication, showing that they contained no references or attributions.
Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland succeeded in imposing her political will on the Mesa County Public Health Department yesterday after appointing two final conservative members to the Mesa County Board of Public Health (BOH).
Health Department employees point out Rowland made all the new appointments to the Board of Health without consulting a single person at the Health Department.
“The fact that they keep appointing people to our Board that so clearly do not support the work that we do feels like a spit in the face every time,” one employee said.
An Open Records Act request by Daily Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby examining expenditures by Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland and County Attorney Todd Starr over the last year found both made questionable purchases that arguably violated County policy.
Rowland and Starr charged Public Health Department Jeff Kuhr with doing the same thing, but in his case they called it a fireable offense.
County employees are not allowed to use a County credit card for out-of-town trips. Instead, they are supposed to get a per-diem (a fixed daily allowance) for their expenses.