When the Mesa County Commissioners had the Board of Health (BOH) sign their new Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), the commissioners, County Attorney Todd Starr and all 7 members of the new BOH all either knowingly or unknowingly violated Colorado Revised Statute Title 25, Article 1, Part 5(k).
KREX reporter Michael Loggerwell’s story about Mesa County’s new Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Health Department- Part 1
KREX-TV News recently did a two-part series about the Mesa County Commissioners’ new, post-Jeff Kuhr Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that more tightly regulates the County’s relationship with the Public Health Department (MCPHD), and how it differs from the old 2012 agreement in important ways that could negatively affect public health and safety in the county.
The Mesa County Commissioners recently had the roof replaced on the Old Courthouse at 544 Rood Ave.
They gave the job to Better Line Roofing, LLC in Keenesburg, Colorado, 279 miles from here, instead of a local roofing company.
For Mesa County residents trying to find out how the search is going for a new County Public Health Department (MCPHD) director, the County is acting like it’s really none of your business, unless you belong to their secret circle of private citizens and friends to whom they are giving private access and input into the decision.
Janet Rowland, Chair of the Board of County Commissioners, told people when she was running for office that transparency in government is “absolutely critical,” but the search for a new MCPHD director has been anything but transparent.
At the meeting of the new Mesa County Board of Public Health (BOH) scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, September 11, 2023, the County Commissioners hope to impose a new Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) (pdf, page 10) on the Board of Health that will tie the BOH tightly to most County policies and procedures eliminate the BOH’s ability to control their own meeting agendas, and allow the Commissioners block discussion of any subject the commissioners don’t like.
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.
People in highly-paid, taxpayer-funded jobs who also are in positions to influence Mesa County actions and policies should be background checked, especially when they start doing potentially illegal things like helping the Mesa County Commissioners dismantle of the Board of Public Health for no real reason, and in apparent violation of county policies and state law.
Mesa County Attorney Todd M. Starr certainly meets that criteria. He makes a salary of $190,800/year, not including perks and benefits, and appears to have facilitated illegal acts by the Mesa County Commissioners against the Board of Public Health.
So I decided to background check him.
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.
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.
A person the Mesa County Commissioners appointed to the Board of Health yesterday, Stephen D. Daniels, is a strong supporter of anti-vax conspiracy theorist and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (RFK), according to his social media accounts. Posts on the same sources also reveal Daniels is anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-Disney, and a climate change denier who opposes Colorado’s new family and medical leave law, which gives workers paid time off to care for a new baby or a loved one who has a serious health condition.
Presidential candidate RFK, whom Daniels supports, opposes vaccines that prevent dire illnesses in children and adults, like polio, measles and smallpox. In 2017, Scientific American wrote that “For more than a decade, Kennedy has promoted anti-vaccine propaganda completely unconnected to reality,” and if his anti-vax advocacy “leads to even a small decline in vaccine rates across the country, it will result in the waste of untold amounts of money and in all likelihood, the preventable deaths of infants too young to be vaccinated.”
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.
￼ Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland failed to get 3 bids for multi-thousand dollar contracts
Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland has cited the awarding of contracts without first getting competitive bids as reason enough to fire Mesa County Public Health Department (MCPHD) Director Jeff Kuhr:
According to an article in the 6/14/23 issue of the Daily Sentinel, titled “More turmoil on the Public Health Board,”
“At the June 5 public health meeting, [Mesa County Attorney Todd] Starr presented a largely one-sided view of a partial audit done earlier this year on the department, some of which said Kuhr hired contractors without going through a competitive bid process…” [Italicized emphasis added.] Rowland complained that awarding sole source contracts without first getting bids or going through review by County finance departments “puts the County at high risk because [the contracts don’t] go through a legal, risk or finance review.”
But she and the other Commissioners award high-dollar contracts without first getting competitive bids where such bids and oversight are merited, according to County policy.
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.
Vitor Yahn, one of the people Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland appointed to the Mesa County Board of Public Health on an interim basis after the original Board resigned en masse, has himself resigned from the Board.
The entire original Board of Health resigned after Rowland pressured them relentlessly to fire Health Department Director Jeff Kuhr, and they refused, and Rowland threatened to fire them all. It was questionable whether the move would have been legal, but the Board resigned rather than face a hearing with a predetermined outcome.
Rowland has been accusing Dr. Kuhr of financial wrongdoing for months, but Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein investigated Dr. Kuhr and found insufficient evidence that Kuhr engaged in any financial wrongdoing, or acted to benefit himself in any way.
Lisa Rickard Mills is Behavioral Health Strategies Manager for Mesa County, reports to Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland and is administering programs funded with $1 million in combined grants from the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health, St. Mary’s Hospital and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
According to text messages (pdf) obtained between Janet Rowland and Mills, Mills also appears to have been instrumental in prompting Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland to start her recent attacks Mesa County Public Health Department Director Dr. Jeff Kuhr.
Mills is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) with the State of Colorado. Public records show that in 2020 she was sanctioned by the state Board of Social Work Examiners.
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.”
Lisa Mills is a behavioral health strategies manager for Mesa County’s Department of Health and Human Services and by all indications seems to be a key figure in the County’s recent ongoing, unhinged efforts to take down Dr. Jeff Kuhr as longtime Director of the Mesa County Public Health Department (MCPHD).