Tribune Opinion: It is time for Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway to resign
March 8, 2017
Buried deep in the 100-plus pages of documents released last week about the Sean Conway investigation is an email from Conway's attorney, making an argument the report should not be released to the public, or even to the Weld County commissioners. It should be released only to the Weld County Council, the attorney argued.
For anyone who takes the time to read the full report, it is understandable why Conway and his attorney didn't want the specific allegations relßeased.
The allegations made by five Weld County employees, four other county commissioners and one impartial third-party human resources investigator show a Conway who is quick to anger, unable to control his temper, frequently uses profanity, seeks to intimidate and bully employees and other commissioners with his loud outbursts, and who never takes responsibility for his behavior.
We believe it is time for Sean Conway to resign.
We say that with regret because we think Conway has done good things for Weld County at times during his eight-plus years as a Weld County commissioner.
But we were frankly shocked when we read the full report and the summary by the investigator. We believe for anybody who reads the interviews with employees and commissioners, the evidence is overwhelming that Conway's behavior has reached a level where it must stop.
Consider, for example, some of these statements made by employees:
» "I felt very scared. He was getting louder and closer to me and I felt threatened."
» "This incident has caused me to avoid him as much as possible."
» "I have never felt that scared before. I submitted my resignation. I couldn't work in that environment any longer."
» "I am frequently subjected to verbal assault from Commissioner Conway. … Consistently, almost every week, Commissioner Conway would yell at me (in a meeting)."
Consider these comments made by Conway's colleagues, other Weld County commissioners:
» "For the last two years Commissioner Conway has yelled at me at least weekly. I have also heard Commissioner Conway go into Commissioner Freeman's office, shut the door and yell at him as well."
» Conway "was screaming at me and every sentence contained the F word. I kept trying to get a word in with him but he wouldn't listen and eventually Commissioner Conway hung up on me."
» "Commissioner Conway was yelling and using the f-word several times."
And consider this, from the investigator in her 17-page summary:
» "As previously mentioned, this investigator finds Mr. Conway's credibility lacking."
» "Several individuals gave examples of Mr. Conway giving the staff direction as to a task and then becoming upset or yelling when the staff follows his direction."
» "It appears that Mr. Conway has engaged in the conduct described by the employees. … It further appears that this behavior has been going on for several years. … Lastly, there is a significant amount of fear from the participants that they will be retaliated against in some way."
These are just a few examples from the report that took close to three months to compile. We would suggest skeptics take the time to read the entire report to see the multiple allegations against Conway,
Is it possible, as Conway says over and over again, that he is the victim of retaliation? Or is it possible, as he told the investigator: "I have never yelled at any of the employees of Weld County." Is it possible he is the victim of a witch hunt, as he has proposed?
To put it nicely, we don't think so.
We don't think 10 people are lying and fabricating countless examples of yelling, bullying and profanity. We don't think 10 people are conspiring to bring him down. We find it hard to believe he is the victim of retaliation because of differences of opinion about county policy.
Instead, we think county commissioners and employees are standing up for a reasonable work environment that doesn't include yelling and profanity. In fact, we applaud the employees, in particular, who came forward to meet with the investigator. We think they showed great courage and indeed had significant fear of retaliation for coming forward. And we think it was imperative for commissioners to stand up for the county's employees to avoid potential legal action.
For any reasonable person who reads the 150 pages of interviews, we think you would come to this conclusion: If you worked with somebody who consistently exhibited this kind of behavior, you would expect your boss to take action that likely would include severe discipline. For repeated behavior, you would expect termination.
To claim such behavior never happened, or to blame others, one must suspend logic and common sense. We find it hard to fathom that Weld County Councilman Jordan Jemiola defends Conway in one breath, while in the next breath calls the other four commissioners "corrupt" and "scumbags."
No wonder Conway and his attorney wanted the report released only to the county council, where it seems apparent three of the five members are in Conway's back pocket. The report never would have seen the light of day if it had been released to that impotent board. More and more the county council appears to us to be a board where back-room political favors are made, and then repaid.
One other statement made by a county employee sticks in our memory from the report. "He (Conway) often deflects criticism instead of taking ownership for his behavior."
We think that comes through time and time again in the statements made by employees and other commissioners.
Weld County employees deserve better treatment. Other Weld County elected officials deserve better treatment. Weld County residents and voters deserve better representation.
We think Sean Conway should resign and let another Weld County resident serve as a county commissioner.
— The Tribune Editorial Board