In a surprise announcement, District 1 County Commissioner Robert Rowland has relinquished his position as chair of the Elbert County Board of County Commissioners.
Rowland's announcement came in the opening minutes of a public BOCC agenda meeting on Nov. 16.
In a statement issued by Rowland, he said that he would — at some point — further explain his decision to relinquish his position as chair and praised the “team of dedicated and honest employees and most of our elected officials who have shown themselves to be committed to the cooperation and the work expected from us from the citizens of Elbert County.”
Rowland was elected chair of the BOCC last January, and has been the subject of ongoing legal action launched by his 2012 rival for the District 1 seat, Jill Duvall. The genesis of Duvall's complaint stems from a violation of the Colorado Fair Campaign Practices Act, when the BOCC hired a consultant to speak at four town-hall meetings ahead of a November 2013 mill-levy vote.
Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer ruled that hiring a consultant was a violation of the act by the entire BOCC, and ordered Rowland to pay a $1,000 fine.
Duvall has stated on a number of occasions that she specifically named Rowland in her complaint to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office because he was the only commissioner who verbalized the term “mill levy” during the town-hall meetings.
Rowland's appeal was unsuccessful, and Judge Gale T. Miller of the Colorado Court of Appeals compelled Rowland to pay the fine, which he did.
In addition, Duvall has sued to have her legal fees, which she incurred when Rowland appealed the ruling, reimbursed by the county. The fees could total more than $15,000 and the matter is expected to be settled in December.
At a BOCC meeting on April 8, 2015, District 2 Commissioner Kelly Dore cast a lone vote indemnifying Rowland “for any judgment entered against him in his individual capacity” regarding the lawsuit. Rowland and District 3 Commissioner Larry Ross both recused themselves from the vote, though Ross seconded the motion to add the item to the agenda.
According to Dore, it was her understanding that the indemnification was for any future actions and did not apply to county reimbursement of the $1,000 fine. Dore was shown a receipt for a county disbursement, which she took to be a receipt for the fine paid by Rowland.
The document presented to Dore was in fact a record for a reimbursement to Rowland from the county for the fine. Dore has since obtained a copy of the actual check issued to Rowland for the reimbursement.
Dore has said that she takes responsibility for her vote and admits that she should have done more due diligence regarding the issue instead of relying on the legal advice of County Attorney Wade Gately. When she discovered the facts and confronted Gately, his response was that she did not ask him the right questions.
Rowland neither cited the conflict over the lawsuit nor gave another specific reason for his resignation of the Chair, but in his statement he said, “I have decided that I cannot and will not remain in a `leadership role' of a board for which I feel is unjustly at odds with senior staff and the direction and structure that has brought us as far as it has.”
When asked if his resignation as BOCC chair meant that he would not run for re-election in 2016, Rowland responded, “One step at a time.”
The role of chair temporarily fell to Dore at the opening of the BOCC meeting and budget hearings on Nov. 18. The first order of business was to elect Ross as chair and Dore as vice chair.