In a move to settle a lawsuit filed by a local political activist, the Elbert County Board of County Commissioners voted 2-0 on March 29 to repeal a resolution to indemnify District I County Commissioner Robert Rowland.
The action by the BOCC addresses the second of two resolutions that became the subject of a lawsuit filed by Elbert County resident Rick Brown in October 2015 against the BOCC for votes taken at an April 8, 2015, meeting.
Brown, a retired lawyer who practiced in California and in Alaska and served as a member of the Elbert County Planning Commission until last fall, said: “I got what I wanted. Repeal is what I wanted to see.”
In his suit, filed in October 2015, Brown alleged that votes taken to indemnify commissioners in April 2015 were not valid because they violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law, also known as the “sunshine” law, because the BOCC had not provided the public adequate notice before taking votes on resolutions 15-10 and 15-11.
Brown’s complaint also stated that since both Commissioners Larry Ross and Rowland recused themselves from voting on Resolutions 15-10 and 15-11, making the resolutions unlawful, because only a single commissioner, Kelly Dore, cast a vote. Dore was ill and not available to attend the March 29 meeting.
At that meeting, the board repealed Resolution 15-11, which indemnified Rowland for a $1,000 fine levied against him by an administrative judge for the BOCC’s violation of the Colorado Fair Campaign Practices Act. The complaint that was made to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office by Jill Duvall, Elbert County Democratic chair, specifically named Rowland.
Rowland was reimbursed by the county for the fine, but has since returned the money.
The settlement between Brown and the county came as a result of negotiations between Brown and County Attorney Wade Gately, and in consideration for repealing resolution 15-11, the agreement releases the county from further claims and reimburses Brown $300 in legal fees.
In addition, the agreement states that the BOCC and Rowland “expressly deny liability or wrongdoing.”
In January, the BOCC addressed another portion of Brown’s complaint regarding resolution 15-10, which indemnified Rowland, Ross and former Commissioner Kurt Schlegel, who were named along with the county in an ongoing wrongful termination civil suit brought by former county employee Cherie Radeker.
Commissioners passed three separate resolutions in January offering individual indemnification rather than the single blanket resolution offered by Resolution 15-10, thus allowing commissioners to recuse themselves but still achieve the required quorum.