County board chair removed following commissioner conflict

The incident began with a national media request

Elliott Wenzler
ewenzler@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/26/21

Infighting broke out among Douglas County commissioners after the board chair was stripped of that title and the members began lobbing accusations at each other. Commissioner Lora Thomas was removed …

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County board chair removed following commissioner conflict

The incident began with a national media request

Posted

Infighting broke out among Douglas County commissioners after the board chair was stripped of that title and the members began lobbing accusations at each other.

Commissioner Lora Thomas was removed from the chair position after her fellow board members — Abe Laydon and George Teal —  accused her of lying and using her title “for personal gain politically,” according to a resolution posted to the Douglas County website April 23.

That resolution, which was set to be voted on in an April 27 meeting, also states that the former board chair sent emails to members in the business community that were interpreted by some — who have active land use applications in the county — as intimidation.

“Commissioner Thomas' actions have brought a sad day upon the people of Douglas County,” according to the resolution.

Interview requested

The incident began April 16 when the board received a media request from a national media outlet for an interview with a board member, according to the resolution and a spokesperson.

“During that rapid decision making process, the board came to a conclusion that Commissioner Thomas disagreed with,” according to the resolution.

Thomas responded by asserting that this was a violation of the board's media protocol.

That media protocol is an incomplete document that has been in progress since January, according to a county spokesperson. While the board often uses an informal rotating assignment of media interviews, it isn't outlined in the draft media protocol, according to the spokesperson.

Commissioners had decided that Laydon would take the interview with the national outlet rather than Thomas, according to the spokesperson.

After being informed by staff that she was incorrect about the breach of the media protocol, Thomas went on to send emails to “county residents and the business community” about the incident, saying the policy had been broken, according to the resolution.

The resolution called those emails an “attempt to influence the board.”

“Some of those emails were received by businesses with active land use applications before the board and were interpreted to be intimidation to compel those applicants to influence the board,” according to the resolution.

Fallout intensifies

Laydon, now the board chair, and Teal, now the vice chair, voted during an April 19 work session meeting to remove Thomas from that leadership position. 

The county's board chair often serves as the public representative and leader of the board, according to the county's policy for commissioners. The chair presides over meetings and decides agendas. Normally, the chair and vice chair are selected on a rotating basis based on district, according to the policy.

“In a clumsy attempt to silence my voice, my fellow Republican County Commissioners Abe Laydon and George Teal voted to remove me as Chairwoman of the Douglas County Board without cause,” according to an April 21 post to Thomas' personal website. 

The statement called Teal and Laydon “good old boys” and says that they are attempting to silence her.

Teal and Laydon have “chosen their misguided self-interests over the future fiscal health and well-being of our communities,” according to the statement.

In response, Laydon lambasted Thomas.

“Unfortunately, Lora Thomas' egregious abuse of power and willful deceit to advance her political self-interests over the interests of the county represents an ongoing and well-documented pattern of behavior over several years that cannot be further tolerated by the citizens we serve,” he wrote in a text message.

In his statements to Colorado Community Media, Laydon didn't provide additional examples of the actions he had accused of Thomas outside of the April 16 incident.

Commissioner George Teal said in a statement that Thomas lacked "the integrity and professionalism" needed to serve as the chair.

"Her recent conduct is unbecoming of a county commissioner and our residents deserve better," he wrote in a text message. "It is my sincere hope that Tuesday's censure vote will serve as a wake up call to Commissioner Thomas and she'll learn to put our residents above her own self interests."

Attempted mediation

Thomas, who was first elected in 2016, has served as board chair since January.

“This is just about good ole boys attacking a competent, strong woman,” Thomas said in an interview with Colorado Community Media. 

In her April 21 statement, Thomas said that she's worried about the county's financial health because of the two commissioners' policies and that she was ousted because she “opposed their big government plans and fought to inform citizens of the truth.”

In March, Teal and Laydon voted in favor of bringing a clean energy commercial financing program, called the Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, to the county. Thomas mentioned this issue along with pension plans for deputies, the attempted purchase of a local building and graywater discharges in her statement.

Thomas added that the move was “motivated by a frustration with my integrity and courage to oppose and criticize their poorly devised land schemes, financial boondoggles, and self-serving policy proposals.”

In her statement, Thomas asked county residents to show their support to her by emailing the county and attending the April 27 business meeting to voice their support of her.

“I'm trying to save the future of Douglas County,” Thomas said.

An April 23 letter to Thomas, signed by “the board of county commissioners,” is also attached to the agenda for the April 27 commissioners' meeting.

“You have continued to misrepresent the truth and leverage your name, title and apparent authority as chair … for personal gain politically and for those that have contributed to your campaign,” according to the letter.

In an April 24 social media post, Thomas shared that there had been an attempted mediation between the commissioners to end the “embarrassing conflict,” according to her post to Twitter.

She wrote that she was given a drafted letter of apology and told that if she signed it, she may be reinstated as board chair.

Thomas refused to sign the letter.

“I don't work for Abe or George and I don't back down from bullies,” she wrote at the bottom, according to the post.

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