Two of Douglas County's elected commissioners are conducting another investigation into their fellow commissioner just a few days after their previous investigation concluded.
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Two of Douglas County's commissioners are conducting another investigation into their fellow commissioner just a few days after their previous investigation concluded.
This time, Commissioners Abe Laydon and George Teal asked their staff to look into whether Commissioner Lora Thomas publicly released results from their previous investigation to a media outlet.
The county paid $17,000 over the past few months to outside legal counsel to research allegations Teal and Laydon made against Thomas. Last week, they announced the investigation was complete but said they wouldn’t make the full results public.
The county’s public records office responded to a request from Colorado Community Media for the document by saying it was considered “confidential attorney client privilege.”
A week later, however, Commissioner Abe Laydon tweeted that he had "no problem" releasing a redacted version of the report. A redacted version has not yet been made available. An executive session, or closed-door meeting, titled "investigation update" was scheduled for the commissioners Aug. 9 at 9:15 a.m.
On July 29, CBS Colorado aired a story in which they showed the opening page of the report and referenced specific lines from it. Thomas was interviewed in the story.
Teal made a motion Tuesday morning to conduct another investigation into whether Thomas released the document to CBS. Laydon seconded that motion and the two voted in favor of it. They then passed another motion directing their legal counsel to “provide enforcement options” if it's found Thomas did release the document.
Thomas left the meeting early and wasn’t present for the votes or discussion.
County attorney Lance Ingalls told Teal and Laydon it’s possible that because one media outlet has the document, it may not be able to be considered privileged anymore.
He also discussed another argument the county has heard that the document shouldn’t be kept private after commissioners have read from and discussed it in public.
Both Teal and Laydon said they would like to still see the document kept from the public.
“I have nothing to hide,” Laydon said.
He added that he doesn’t want the names of county staff members discussed in the report made public to protect them.
Teal and Laydon asked for an investigation into Thomas in April after they said she violated the board’s direction by asking their legal counsel for names of supporters of a controversial water proposal from the San Luis Valley. The proposal, from Renewable Water Resources, had strong opposition in the southern Colorado community and Laydon expressed concern for its supporters.
The investigation found that Thomas gave direction to the county’s legal staff that was “contrary to a prior vote” by asking for the names of supporters Laydon planned to meet with.
The report also looked into allegations that Thomas created a hostile work environment and caused the resignation of a first responder in the county by distributing an anonymous letter received by the county that detailed concerns about employees of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation found that Thomas did distribute that letter but didn’t determine who wrote it, according to the county’s announcement.
“The investigation found that it was more likely than not that Commissioner Thomas did not create a hostile work environment or cause the discharge of a former employee,” according to the public announcement.
Thomas did not reply to a request for comment for this story.
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