Weld County councilors spar over commissioners, clarify scope of impending performance audits
January 16, 2017
Weld County Councilor Brett Abernathy was elected president of the council for 2017 and Michael Grillos was elected vice president, both by 3-2 votes at the council’s Monday meeting.
Reprimands of Weld County commissioners, conflict of interest accusations and the Weld County Council's role as middle man in a dispute between Commissioners Sean Conway and Barbara Kirkmeyer nearly overshadowed the growing scope of impending performance audits requested by the council for commissioners and the county's clerk and recorder office.
During a question and answer session with potential auditors at the Weld County Council's meeting Monday night, councilors said they wanted the audit to look beyond current clerk and recorder Carly Koppes, and encompass part of former clerk — and current commissioner — Steve Moreno's tenure.
The audit's scope, councilors Michael Grillos and Brett Abernathy said, should include the year before Moreno left office to see what policies were in place before Koppes took office.
Councilors also clarified 40 employees of the clerk's office and another 40 employees who have direct working relationships with the county commissioners should be interviewed as part of the audit. The interviewees, councilor Jordan Jemiola said, should be kept anonymous — even from councilors.
After the meeting Monday, Jemiola said anonymity would not only ensure people would participate, but would help ensure a successful audit.
Ideally, councilors said, the audit of commissioners and the clerk's office should focus on efficiency, effectiveness, and should address any legal matters that should arise during the course of the audit.
The council wants the audit to start March 1 and finish sometime midyear, and commissioners have approved $50,000 toward the audit.
Councilors voted to have Grillos and Gene Stille form an ad hoc audit committee of two that would narrow the roughly seven potential auditors to a list of two or three finalists. The council plans to vote on the auditor at its next meeting, in February.
There will be plenty of other fireworks at the February meeting:
» The council will decide what to do about what some of them say is a conflict of interest in having county attorney Bruce Barker represent both the county commissioners and county council.
» They'll discuss whether to issue a letter reprimanding the county for leaving Conway out of the loop when commissioners appointed department heads for 2017.
» And they'll add an agenda item inviting Conway to offer proof of his claims in a letter submitted to the councilors Monday. In his letter, Conway takes issue with things Kirkmeyer said at a previous council meeting.
Councilors Jemiola and Grillos want a different attorney — at least during the term of the audit — for different reasons. Jemiola about a dozen times Monday referenced a Complete Colorado report, which published emails from county commissioners. Among them was an email from Kirkmeyer to Barker in which Kirkmeyer told Barker to "put (Jemiola) on notice."
Jemiola was visibly upset at the implication that a commissioner could request such an action — whatever that entails — from a county employee, like Barker, and against a county councilor. Barker said he took no action related to that email, but Jemiola said he was upset that he had to learn about the email from Complete Colorado, something he said indicated Barker truly worked for the commissioners, not for the or the council.
Grillo said he has a problem with Conway being left out of a department head position by commissioners this year, something commissioners did after they said they didn't trust him. Grillo said the county's charter explicitly states that each commissioner should oversee a department. Barker said there was an amendment in 2009 and old language was never updated to reflect the change.
Finally, the councilors will invite Conway to provide proof of his claims Kirkmeyer made inaccurate statements — for the record — at the last county council meeting. Conway took issue with a number of Kirkmeyer's statements, including the implication that Conway was involved in securing an Xcel grant for the east Greeley charter school, Salida del Sol, a school that Conway's wife, Rebecca Koppes-Conway, is involved with as a board member.
—Tyler Silvy covers city and county government for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at email@example.com. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.