The following is by Elbert County Sheriff William Frangis.
By By: William Frangis
Editor’s note: To provide a level playing field, The Elbert
County News extended an invitation to the three county
commissioners and the county attorney to write a column to update
the public on the justice center’s mold infestation and mitigation.
The News did not receive a reply.
The following is by Elbert County Sheriff William
By now, I’m sure that everyone is aware that the mold has
returned to the county justice center and that the entire court
system has been transferred to Castle Rock.
I believe it is time for me to advise you of the facts as I see
q During the first episode of mold in 2004, I advised the Board
of County Commissioners that I had some serious concerns regarding
the health of the employees of the jail and dispatch operations. I
was advised at that time that the county furnishes health
insurance, and that the employees are free to go to their personal
doctors if they had any problems.
I stated to the board that I believed these issues would most
likely be classified as worker’s compensation matters, and was told
by the commissioners that I was mistaken.
I then asked if the employees had to seek medical attention, who
would be responsible for the co-payments for office visits and
medications? I was told it was the employee’s
I advised the commissioners of a court employee with mold
illness who was working in the facility, and that case was
classified as a worker’s compensation matter.
The response I then received was just a silent shrug of the
commissioners’ shoulders. End of discussion!
I do not believe that there are different standards and rules
for state, district attorney or county employees.
q Coming back to the existing time, after being verbally assured
by the commissioners in November 2004 that the mold issue had been
corrected and that the building was safe, the justice center
reopened for normal operations.
The building continued to have roof leaks everywhere. However,
even after continual extensive roof repairs, all water-stained
ceiling tiles were replaced in early fall, 2005.
q Dec. 26, 2005, I wrote a letter to the commissioners again,
regarding the continued water leaks in the building. In that
letter, I also asked for copies of all engineering reports and test
results – which, to date, I have not received.
All I have had are verbal assurances that the facility is safe
for occupancy. My letter resulted in another examination of the
building for any sign of mold and the replacement of 21
water-stained ceiling tiles. Those examinations were conducted by
Excel Environmental, the firm hired by the county for the
continuing mold problem.
Accompanying Excel were experts hired by Colorado Judicial
Branch, which resulted in the discovery of mold in two areas of the
court side of the justice center. After the inspection of the jail
side of the facility, I was verbally advised that the sheriff’s
office and jail were “mold free.”
q Jan. 4, 2006, during the commissioners’ public meeting, they
made the following statement to the public and news
“The BOCC reiterates its commitment to provide a clean and safe
justice center and continues to share concerns for the health,
welfare and morale of all employees, court officers and the public
q Jan. 11, 2006, 11 days later, the 18th Judicial District
Attorney removed her staff from the facility, citing concerns for
the health of her employees. The following day, the clerk of the
court and the judges were removed from the facility because of the
same concerns. Remediation of the mold on the court side was then
q Jan. 13, 2006, I furnished the commissioners with a blank
health survey that had been distributed to all court employees.
This survey was recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and
I advised the BOCC that I was going to distribute the survey to
all the county employees who work in the jail.
Jan. 18, 2006, at the BOCC public meeting, I addressed the BOCC
and requested that the sheriff’s offices and jail receive the same
amount of attention as the court side of the facility. I was
severely criticized for making that request and reminded that the
jail was inspected the prior week and found to be safe.
The BOCC chairwoman then stated to the citizens in attendance
that the sheriff was ” … just feeling sorry for
I can assure you that my so-called “hurt feelings” were
motivated out of concern for the health and welfare of all persons
occupying the facility and to prevent the potential for costly
litigation against the county.
The next day, Jan. 19 of in the sheriff’s offices and jail, just
to rub my nose in it.
Guess what? Mold was discovered in the 16-person jail pod! Then,
mold was discovered in the administration office area. Then, mold
was discovered in another office. Then, mold was discovered in a
third office, and again in a fourth office. More mold was found in
the offices of the sheriff in one week than in the entire court
side in the 18-month battle.
So much for verbal assurances.
Jan. 21, 2006, I closed the jail and had all county inmates
transferred to another facility. I cannot, in good conscious,
knowingly hold people in jail against their will when there is the
possibility of exposing them to a health hazard. That is a
potential recipe for a lawsuit against Elbert County by prisoners
By the way, have you heard of any plan by the commissioners to
provide an alternate work area for sheriff’s office employees while
the mold is being cleaned up? The district and county courts, and
the district attorney have been able to care of their employees by
relocating them to a safer work environment.
What about my employees? Go back to the beginning of this
article and review the BOCC’s Jan. 4 press release:
“The BOCC reiterates its commitment to provide a clean and safe
justice center … to share concerns for the health, welfare … morale
of … employees, court officers and … the public …”
Jan. 24, 2006, I advised commissioner John Metli the health
surveys were completed and that I would furnish them to the
At that meeting the next day, before the BOCC, I said that after
reviewing the surveys, I had serious concerns regarding the health
of my employees.
I then presented the surveys to the commissioners. The response
from the three of them was this: They publicly refused to accept
the surveys, and said they didn’t appreciate being “blindsided” by
me. They also said that if the employees have health issues, they
should go to their doctors, because that’s why [we] give them
At that point, I shrugged my shoulders, picked up my
symptomatic-informative surveys and walked out of the
Most people realize the dangers that are associated with being
in the law se
officers willingly and proudly accept those risks every day for
you, the pubic, always wondering if their number will be up that
day as they come to work. As they leave home, their spouses have
those same thoughts, and they breathe a sigh of relief when the
officers come home after work. Those risks are a given, but they
should not have additional health and safety risks placed upon them
by simply working in their county-designated work area. It should
not be acceptable for the elected county officials to put peace
officers in an environment to become sick because of airborne
disease. Officers should expect, and receive, a safe and sanitary
building in which to work, and inmates have no choice but to
rightfully expect the same.
I know that some people will view my actions and statements as
trying to create chaos or pick another fight with members of the
BOCC. We’ve had a few over the past three years.
The last thing I want in an election year is a high-profile
“wise” political move would be to keep my head down, my mouth
shut, smile a lot and not make waves.
Yet at the same time, I believe I have a duty to be honest and
truthful with the citizens of Elbert County – and to act in the
best interest of the men and women of the sheriff’s office. No
matter what the future brings, I will stand my ground on these
issues with my head up – knowing in my heart that looking out for
my staff and my inmates is the right stand.
Politics be damned!
My “hurt feelings” on this whole ordeal are not for myself, but
for the men and women who serve you 24-hours a day, every day. They
deserve better; a disease-free building where they can come to work
I a healthy manner.
Now that you have read this, whom do you really think is being
Sheriff William G. Frangis