In what could signal a turning point in the string of recent 2-to-1 conflicts on Douglas County’s board of elected leaders, Commissioner Abe Laydon voted against the fourth attempt in less than a month to reprimand Commissioner Lora Thomas.
“The people of our county are not interested in paying for this conversation or this activity, and it grieves me unbelievably that we are spending our valuable time having this fruitless discussion. I would love to see all three of us work well for those we serve,” Laydon said during a Sept. 12 meeting of Douglas County officials.
At the meeting, Commissioner George Teal again proposed to remove Thomas from more positions on outside organizations in the community.
Though Laydon and Teal had voted to remove Thomas from positions on other outside organizations in the community just two weeks earlier, Laydon blocked the newest proposal to punish Thomas — at least for the moment.
“I don’t have enough information in front of me,” Laydon said, adding: “I’m open to hearing it and receiving it, but at this point, I would really prefer to move forward with the good work of the county.”
‘Show it to me’
In recent weeks, Laydon and Teal have taken several steps to reprimand Thomas following what they say is behavior inappropriate for a county commissioner.
Teal and Laydon voted at a Sept. 5 meeting to cancel Thomas’ county credit card and to suspend her travel and mileage allowance. That move came a week after Laydon and Teal voted to remove Thomas from outside boards that oversee organizations in the community, and it occurred two weeks after they voted to censure, or formally disapprove, of her.
Thomas’ colleagues censured her largely in response to her actions criticizing a volunteer board that advises the county on how arts and culture funding should be spent.
(For details on those actions and what led up to them, see Colorado Community Media’s coverage at tinyurl.com/CommissionerVotes.)
At the Sept. 12 meeting, Thomas argued Teal lacked evidence to further punish her.
“I have done nothing wrong,” Thomas said.
“Well, you have,” Teal responded.
“Then show it to me,” Thomas said.
Teal pointed to “additional communications I’ve received — some of them verbal, by the way.”
Some of them “were communications from other members of the boards in question, suggesting that there was more work for us to do for the betterment of the people of Douglas County on these,” Teal said, continuing to argue in favor of removing Thomas.
“Those actions that you took that caused that censure are now having ripple effects, and they’re having ripple effects to where the very integrity of the operation of this county is being called into question,” Teal also said.
He added: “The evidence is what has already been presented and adjudicated as part of your censure.”
After hearing pushback from Laydon, Teal said: “How many more meetings do you want to have?”
“Because this isn’t going to go away. And, quite frankly, the individuals that approached me on reassigning these boards, they’re going to come back,” Teal said.
Specifically, Teal proposed to remove Thomas from positions on organizations including the High Line Canal Conservancy; the Douglas County Emergency Telephone, or 911, authority; and the Unified Forensic Lab board.
Laydon voted against the proposal but left the door open to changing his mind.
“I think there is ample evidence to warrant the censure and the decisions that we’ve already made — they’ve been made on the record, publicly and transparently,” Laydon said. “That said, I am not interested in continuing to punish or reprimand an individual for the behavior that occurred. If that behavior continues to occur, I am pleased to do that, and I think that’s consistent with our policy manual.”
Laydon added: “I don’t want to spend another millisecond of time on this. But if I must, I will do that for the benefit of this board and the people of this county … So for me, today, in the interest of time, I need to hit the pause button. I remain open to any specific information or evidence as needed.”