Court documents show five more women complained of harassment against Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway
February 14, 2017
The judge will review the Greeley Tribune Colorado Open Records Act request at “the earliest practicable time,” but it’s unclear when that will be.
In addition to the one known complaint against Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, five other female county employees have complained about Conway's behavior toward them, according to a petition filed by Weld County in Weld District Court.
Weld County attorneys on Tuesday filed a motion with Weld District Court seeking the court's opinion on the release of records requested by The Greeley Tribune.
The records relate to a harassment complaint against Conway, as well as a subsequent investigation and report by Mountain States Employer Counsel. County commissioners, including Conway, discussed that report during executive session Monday morning, and The Tribune requested the report Monday afternoon.
But it's likely that report covers more than just the one official harassment complaint filed Nov. 28, 2016, by a former employee who said Conway went on a profanity-laced tirade during a phone call that morning. The woman who filed the report quit shortly after.
In the petition, Weld County lays out a timeline, including Weld County Human Resource Director Patricia Russell's call to Mountain States seeking the organization's investigative services to look into the complaint.
A Mountain States investigator asked Russell whether there were other employees who expressed similar complaints.
"Ms. Russell responded that she was aware of at least five other women who had complained about Commissioner Conway's actions and demeanor towards them, but had not wished to file written complaints with Ms. Russell for fear of retaliation," according to court records.
Russell is later paraphrased as saying Conway's actions created a hostile work environment for the women interviewed, and the petition cites county code related to intimidation, ridicule and insult.
It's unclear whether Conway would be open to any sort of consequences, as he is an elected official and is specifically not an employee according to county code.
Conway did not return requests for comment on this story.
The question of whether the document is released likely hangs on the nature of the harassment complaints against Conway. Commissioners cited a section of law related to sexual harassment while going into executive session Monday.
That section would prevent the release of investigations or reports related to sexual harassment, but not harassment generally, and a judge will be tasked with making that distinction.
"All sexual harassment is harassment, but not all harassment is sexual harassment," said Tribune and Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition attorney Steve Zansberg, explaining the possible distinction a judge might find.
If a judge determines the harassment complaints aren't sexual in nature, The Tribune likely will get the records, Zansberg said.
The Mountain States report is 17 pages long and includes 149 pages of attachments. Each commissioner was given a copy during their Monday executive session, but each were required to turn the reports over at the end of the session. The reports are being kept at the Weld County Administration Building human resources offices under lock and key.
—Tyler Silvy covers city and county government for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.