If Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland gets her way, the new, temporary members recently intstalled on the Mesa County Board of Public Health (BOPH) will do the Commissioners’ bidding and fire longtime Mesa County Health Department Director Dr. Jeff Kuhr, even though there is insufficient evidence of any financial wrongdoing by Kuhr and even though a large majority of the local public thinks the county commissioners are engaging in a blatant overreach of their authority.
EDITORIAL from the June 1, 2023 edition of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Reprinted in full, with permission. Link to original editorial is here.
This editorial explains what’s been going on with the Commissioners’ months-long, defamatory attack on Mesa County Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr.
Can the BOCC sink any lower?
“Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”
— Joseph Welch, special counsel for the U.S. Army, to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy during hearings in 1954 on whether communism infiltrated the U.S. armed forces.
Mesa County commissioners are in the midst of a relentless campaign to remove Dr. Jeff Kuhr from his position as executive director of Mesa County Public Health.
They’ve tried every trick in the book, some a little more unseemly than others, but none as low as the character assassination they’ve planted in the public record that unfairly swipes at Kuhr’s reputation without giving him an opportunity to defend himself.
Commissioners are acting much like the disgraced Sen. McCarthy, whose role in the Army-McCarthy hearings was described as “judge, jury, prosecutor, castigator, and press agent, all in one,” by Harvard law dean Ervin Griswold.
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.
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.)
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.
On Wednesday, October 12, 2022, in its opinion section the Daily Sentinel endorsed Republican election denier Bobbie Daniel for County Commissioner, saying she was “prepared to step in ready to work on day one.” But the Sentinel failed to ask the big question of how it happened that Daniel had become so prepped for the position.
It happened because Daniel has been groomed for months, maybe years, for the job by sitting Republican Mesa County commissioners, who have been using taxpayer-funded resources and taxpayer-funded County time to make sure Daniel gets a huge leg-up over her opponent in the race.
Republican Mesa County Commissioner candidate Bobbie Daniel says on Instagram that she’ll be fiscally responsible, that she cares about “overburdening taxpayers” and keeping local government stable.
Well if all that’s true, Daniel owes it to county taxpayers to say what she thinks of the $1.5 million and counting that County taxpayers have been forced to pay for the antics of her pal Tina Peters, whom Daniel endorsed for Clerk back in 2018. Why hasn’t Daniel condemned Peters’ antics and the massive expenditure Peters has cost county taxpayers so far? And why hasn’t Daniel apologized for her grievous mistake of endorsing Tina?
Daniel has been mum on the subject so far.
Maybe that’s because Daniel assured voters in 2018 Tina had lots of experience and “we’d be in really good hands” if she was elected Clerk and Recorder. Well we trusted Daniel and now we’ve see how THAT turned out. And we won’t even mention the 574 legitimately-cast ballots that Tina lost in 2019 and never counted, that kicked off her nightmarish term as clerk.
Maybe it’s because Daniel herself is an election denier who is trying hard to keep it under wraps before the election this November. Word is also out ***Rumor-ALERT***Rumor-ALERT*** that sitting County Commissioner Janet Rowland ordered Daniel to keep her crazy election denialist beliefs out of her campaign for commissioner, since election deniers have been harassing the sitting commissioners for over a year now.
Maybe it’s because Tina alleged that “a county commissioner candidate” — whom we all know could ONLY have been Bobbie Daniel — was among those who attended a post-Mesa County election-equipment breach dinner with Conan Hayes, the professional election denier Tina smuggled into the Clerk’s office to make copies of the voting machines’ hard drives. Other attendees Tina alleged were at that dinner were Sherronna Bishop, who may have helped engineer the whole Mesa County election breach, and House Rep. Lauren Boebert, a strong supporter of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Whatever the reason Daniel has been quiet about the amount of money taxpayers have been forced to spend on her pal Tina’s behavior, Daniel needs to come out and acknowledge she was wrong in endorsing Tina and apologize for helping put County voters through hell as a result of her terrible judgment.
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.
Mesa County District Court Judge Valerie Robison today issued an injunction officially preventing embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and her hand-picked Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley from having any involvement with the November elections. The ruling officially removed Peters as Designated Election Official and installed former Secretary of State Wayne Williams in that position. It also confirmed Sheila Riener as the Election Supervisor.
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought against Peters and Knisley by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold. The suit was joined by Mesa County Commissioners Janet Rowland, Cody Davis and Scott McInnis, who were listed in the suit as intervenors.
Commissioner Janet Rowland gives angry audience a dose of reality, and votes to do the right thing
The Mesa County Commissioners voted unanimously this afternoon to extend the County’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems so they could get new voting equipment for no up-front cost from Dominion. The Commissioners voted to maintain the County’s contract with the company until 2029, and agreed to make progressively higher payments to the company throughout that time. The County needed new voting equipment to replace the equipment decertified by the Colorado Secretary of State because Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters was unable to prove the equipment had been kept secure and had not been compromised.
The Board of Mesa County Commissioners (BOCC) held a rushed hearing this evening at which they appointed former Secretary of State Wayne Williams to oversee the 2021 election in Mesa County, taking swift action after Colorado Secretary of State (SOS) Jena Griswold stripped Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters’ of her ability to carry out elections.
The SOS can’t remove Peters from office because she was elected, but she can stop Peters from carrying out elections.
Griswold appointed current Mesa County Treasurer and former two-term County Clerk Sheila Reiner to oversee elections.
Reiner, a Republican, was term-limited out of the County Clerk’s office in 2018. Peters was elected in 2018 as her replacement. Peters is currently under criminal investigation in which, the SOS’s office says, all evidence shows she allegedly engineered a security breach of the county’s election equipment.
BOCC arm wrestles the Secretary of State for local control
Yes, you read that right.
Denver news is reporting (video) that the Secretary of State will strip Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters of power and “appoint someone other than [Mesa County] Clerk Tina Peters to oversee Mesa County’s elections.”
At the same time, the Mesa County Commissioners are holding a special meeting tonight to consider only one item: deciding whether to “approve or deny” an apparent replacement for Tina Peters.
Everybody is dancing around it, but no one wants to come right out and say it. It’s the single biggest threat to Mesa County’s population in the last hundred years, but everyone is scared to say it:
Mesa County’s dominant far right wing culture is now causing a resurgent spread of Covid-19, sending people to the hospital and endangering the children in our community who are too young to get vaccinated. Our area’s right wing culture, with its erroneous, misinformed beliefs, is causing the majority of Mesa County residents to refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19. At the same time our elected officials have abandoned all other means of controlling the pandemic, like masking and physical distancing requirements.
We’ve heard over and over again that the Covid vaccine is now our only way out of the pandemic, but because most people in Mesa County are refusing to get vaccinated, we may never escape the pandemic.
Colorado Mesa University (CMU) President Tim Foster has long used CMU to create high-paying jobs for Republican friends who either lost elections, were term-limited out of office or simply had no other place to go. His use of CMU for patronage appointments for exclusively Republican pals is so notorious that in 2007 Leslie Robinson, a writer for the Colorado Independent, dubbed the school “Mesa Republican College.”
The financial misuse of a taxpayer-funded institution by a person in position of power to benefit friends and acquaintances is called “cronyism” Its formal definition is “the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.” People often confuse cronyism with nepotism, which is when a powerful person appoints family members to positions of authority without regard to their qualifications.
What’s wrong with cronyism?
Colorado Mesa University (CMU) announced today that CMU Vice President John Marshall is one of three candidates under final consideration to be the university’s new president.
A lot of local people are unhappy with that.
Ordinarily the second-in-command at a higher educational institution would seem a logical choice to step into the top spot, but this is the exception.
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.
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.
A top headline in yesterday’s Daily Sentinel announced that former Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese is the sole finalist for the job of Mesa County Attorney, which, as of 2019 was the highest-paid job in the County.
Based on Pugliese’s qualifications, or lack thereof, this is nothing short of crazy, and it smacks loudly of cronyism by Mesa County’s Old Guard Republican Establishment (OGREs).
Pugliese won consideration as sole contender for the job despite having a track record that would probably get the rest of us fired.
Oh, where to begin?