Forced to take action after numerous scandals rocked county government, the Adams County Board of Commissioners adopted a series of reforms in an attempt to restore the public’s trust. While the reforms are certainly a step in the right direction, questions still remain and show there is much work to be done.
The seven reforms address key issues that scandals involving county employees and elected officials brought to light. The Denver Post spearheaded the reporting and should be credited for their investigative work in uncovering the unethical behavior of these persons.
County purchasing and oversight will receive much needed changes. An independent auditor will be established, rules put in place to deal with conflicts of interest, and changing the county’s Code of Ethics to prohibit employees from dealing contractors personally.
Commissioner Erik Hansen has led the process and he should be commended as should Commissioner Skip Fischer for his willingness to help foster in the changes. As for Commissioner Alice Nichol, well, she clearly remains in a state of denial and continues to demonstrate why she needs to go.
I applaud these moves but they are lacking in key areas….
First it is amusing to see the county launch what will likely be a costly legal action against Quality Paving, its former principals and the county employees involved in that particular scandal. It seems unlikely the county will recoup a worthwhile portion of its losses and it is really an attempt to shift blame from those still within the county government – staff and elected officials – that allowed it to happen in the first place.
Second, the commissioners effectively ‘punted’ the issue of expanding the Board of Commissioners to five. The county will “conduct a public opinion poll first, to see how residents feel about putting these items on the ballot.” Call me silly but isn’t that what a vote is? Put it before the people and let us have our say.
At this point in the game, elected officials in the county have virtually lost their right to have any input in the way we are governed. We don’t trust them and I sure wouldn’t trust any results from a poll conducted by the same people who have mislead and deceived us in the past.
Further, the number of people on the board should be a completely separate issue from whether or not the county becomes a home rule entity. They are very distinct and different issues and should be treated as such.
Third, the big issue of transparency remains outstanding and was not addressed. The people need to be able to easily monitor the actions of elected officials and this includes televised public meetings at times and locations citizens can actually watch and attend.
As is the county only provides audio recordings and conducts public meetings during the business day when few people can attend. Certainly one would think that given the $103 million spent on their palatial new digs the county could have forked over the money for a camera system.
The county’s website is virtually useless to the average citizen. The way news stories appear in popup windows is annoying and prevents proper reading. News items ‘disappear’ with no readily available archive for county residents to refer back to. The site is difficult to navigate and the search tool makes it impossible to interpret results to find what you are looking for.
Lastly, left open pending outside investigations is the allegedly unethical behavior of Commissioner Alice Nichol and Assessor Gil Reyes. These two elected officials alone have brought a great deal of shame upon our county and their time in office is likely short. Both deny their roles and Nichol, the matriarch of the Adams Family, in particular has shown absolutely no remorse.
One key person’s status also remains unanswered – that of County Administrator Jim Robinson. It was under his watch that city staff, the people that report to him, conducted many breaches of ethical and legal behavior. Nevertheless, it appears somehow he will escape unscathed.
As we understand it Robinson has been disengaged from the get go when scandals started erupting years ago and shown little interest in taking charge and resolving these issues. It was also disheartening to read a quote from Robinson in the Post passing the buck saying, “If they [employees] didn’t like the answer they got from me, they just went to a commissioner.” Wow. There’s some great leadership for you – not one for taking responsibility apparently.
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