Weld County employee complaint alleges fourth complaint against Commissioner Sean Conway | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld County employee complaint alleges fourth complaint against Commissioner Sean Conway

Sharon Dunn
sdunn@greeleytribune.com

A former Weld County employee who quit after she said she was verbally harassed by Commissioner Sean Conway has complained about him three times before, according to her complaint.

The employee reported to the four other county commissioners the Nov. 23 event in which she said Conway screamed at her for scheduling a meeting when he was out of town was not her first tangle with him.

The complaint in its entirety came to The Tribune anonymously through the mail late Thursday. The Tribune is not naming the employee because of the nature of the complaint, which falls under the heading of sexual harassment. Weld County Attorney Bruce Barker has rejected open records requests of the complaint, or emails pertaining to it, on that basis as well.

"This is now the fourth time where I have been verbally accosted by the same commissioner," the woman wrote.

She detailed the following incidents:

» "Summer 2011 — Centennial Center office. (A clerk) had to come to my aid to diffuse the situation. I did not request a notation in my personnel file at the time but likely should have.

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» Summer 2014 — of which I did file a written complaint in my personnel file. I was allowed two days of administrative leave following this episode.

» Summer 2016 — minor compared to the first two, but still major enough that one of the attorneys had to come intervene to diffuse the situation. I verbally reported this one to HR director as well, but did not provide a written notation."

Barker would not confirm if there are or have been any other complaints filed against Conway.

The woman resigned within a week of the Nov. 23, 2016, incident, which was a phone call with Conway that she wrote began with "cordial introductions."

According to the complaint, Conway told her he had noticed his calendar that morning had filled up with work sessions, and she said there were a couple of changes that had occurred in the last day or so and asked if he had a question about one of them.

Then, it turned ugly.

"He said, 'Yes, I'm questioning why you're waiting until I'm out of town and then putting a bunch of work sessions on the calendar,'" she wrote. "I started to respond, indicating that was not accurate, and he interrupted me and said, 'Well, I see several meetings on the calendar that I know nothing about, so explain that!' I again started to respond and indicated there was one new work session on the calendar, and then was interrupted again by him elevating his voice and indicating he saw way more than one work session on the calendar.

"He then continued along the lines of saying, 'I see what you're doing here, you're creating all these meetings and scheduling them when I can't be here so that I can't be a part them, aren't you?'"

In the complaint she said she attempted to explain how the meeting had changed, and he continued accusing her or trying to keep him out of them.

"'But you didn't call me, did you? Why didn't you call me? You just started setting all these work session without notifying me because you knew I was out of town.' At that point I firmly, but still politely said, 'Sean, just stop. Let me explain,' to which he replied, 'Oh no, You don't get to f***ing tell me to just stop!'"

She said in her complaint he accused her of trying to circumvent him, and she needs to clear any calendar changes through him. The meeting in question was a work session Commissioner Steve Moreno had sought with Human Services Director Judy Griego.

"He said, "No, no, this is not how this works. You do not get to decide which work sessions I get to be a part of. … He continued yelling, saying, 'No, this is not the right protocol, and you know what? This is what the protocol is going to be from now on. From now on you're going to ….'"

She said the conversation continued to get heated, and she eventually hung up on him.

Commissioner Julie Cozad, who was just elected this week as chairwoman for 2017, was standing next to the woman during the call.

"I was standing there when it happened. I observed what happened, and I suggested to her to file a complaint with our personnel department," Cozad said Friday. She and other commissioners said they could not comment on the actual allegations, as it was an ongoing investigation.

Shortly after that event, then-Chairman Mike Freeman called Conway to clarify the situation. The employee had changed the calendar at Freeman's request.

"I told her to put the work session on the calendar. All he had to do was respond to the email and say, 'I need to be at this,'" Freeman said this past week. "I talked to Sean and immediately changed that work session. … I said, 'If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at me. She put it on the calendar because I told her to.' He said she knows better than to do that. I said, at end of the day, she doesn't have a choice. … It's what I asked her to do.'"

Conway has said that the commissioners this week retaliated against him for that incident, and other events in which he questioned their ethics and spending, by encouraging the employee to file the complaint against him. The group also kept him from any leadership roles on the board this year. Conway has since filed a notice to sue his fellow commissioners for retaliation and defamation.

Conway did not return calls to his cell phone Friday seeking for comment. In an interview this week, Conway said it was clear the commissioners put the employee up to it.

"This complaint was initiated by commissioners against me, and I believe it is part of an overall retaliatory action against me," Conway said. "It's all part of a pattern."

This week the commissioner kept Conway from serving as chairman of the board, a position he felt he should have had since he served as chairman pro-tem all last year, and they kept him from coordinating a county department.

"It has nothing to do with retaliation," Freeman said Friday. "It has to do with what I believe is in the best interest of Weld County. Until this investigation is over, I feel uncomfortable putting Sean in a leadership position. There's no retaliation whatsoever."

Cozad said she's been in management a long time, and she would have been remiss not to have suggested the employee file a complaint.

"Because I've been in management positions before, I would say that when incidents like that occur, they need to be reported," Cozad said.

Added Freeman: "As far as putting an employee up to going and reporting something, (she) had every right to go report that and did it on her own."

The Tribune has attempted to speak to the employee, but she did not respond to requests for an interview.

Barker said because it was an ongoing investigation, he couldn't discuss anything about the complaint other than to acknowledge — since Conway had already done so himself publicly — there was a complaint.

There is no set time frame in which to investigate the complaint, and he said he couldn't even say how far along the investigation was.

The road forward also is a mystery in terms of how to respond once the investigation is finished. He said he'd make decisions on what to do next after the investigation is complete.

"In 34 years, I've never dealt with something like this before," Barker said.

What’s next

The Board of Weld County Commissioners meets at 9 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays in the Weld County Administration Building, 1150 O St. A section for public input is reserved near the beginning of every meeting for residents to discuss anything not on the agenda. Speakers are limited to 3 minutes.

All comments must be directed to the board. The chairwoman may immediately refer any comment to staff for resolution or for scheduling of a work session. The board will not take comments regarding matters which are likely to be considered at a future public hearing, such as a land-use hearing, and you will be asked to give your testimony at that hearing, either in person or in writing. Combined public input on any topic will be limited to 15 minutes.

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