Group of Weld County commissioners push plan that could change role of clerk and recorder, eliminate county council | MyWindsorNow.com

Group of Weld County commissioners push plan that could change role of clerk and recorder, eliminate county council

Catherine Sweeney
csweeney@greeleytribune.com

Some of Weld County's commissioners want to pave the way for residents to call the shots on whether the clerk and recorder remains an elected position, and whether the county council should even exist.

Three commissioners have discussed organizing a charter committee, which could alter — or possibly eradicate — the jobs of officials that have caused controversy in the county over the past few months.

The charter is essentially Weld County's constitution. It lays out overarching and specific policies, such as the county's balanced budget requirement and each official's role and duties.

Charter committees raise concerns and make a list of desired changes. The commissioners get those on the ballot, and the residents decide whether they want to make updates. In this case, any ballot questions would have to come in 2017 at the earliest.

Weld County officials haven't organized a charter committee in more than 10 years.

"There's actually been a lot of people that have talked to at least me … about (how) maybe there's a need to amend the charter," said County Commissioner Julie Cozad.

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One of the issues at hand: Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes has faced public complaints from employees, residents and major commercial customers, but two attempts to audit her office have failed.

"We have intentionally tried to stay out of this as much as we can," said Commissioner Steve Moreno, the former clerk and recorder.

He has turned down multiple opportunities to publicly comment on the issues in Koppes' office, but he was one of the commissioners who offered to pay for a performance audit.

"We have reached out to see if we could assist in some way," he said. "Obviously, that was declined."

Koppes added conditions to the performance review agreement the commissioners emailed her — including a ban on customer and lower-level employee interviews — and she accused the board of offering the audit only to make themselves look better, according to email documents obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act.

Four of the five county commissioners — all except Koppes' uncle by marriage, Sean Conway — pulled the plug on the offer.

The commissioners only made the offer after the county council — an elected group designed to act as a watchdog over other elected officials — tried and failed to agree on an audit.

An employee requested the audit, and in subsequent county council meetings, other residents made the same request. Although all members — except one who recused herself — initially voiced support, two members ended up blocking all measures allowing the audit.

The county council meetings during which members discussed the audit were plagued with tension and hostility. One member resigned because of the conflict, and other members threatened to disband the board themselves.

With charter changes, these officials' jobs could change, or even disappear.

"There's been a lot of conversation about the county council, and how needed it is," Cozad said. "If (committee members and voters) think it's important, they'll keep it in. If they don't, they may look at taking the county council out."

During the last charter update in the early 2000s, the committee and voters approved updates that changed two positions from elected ones to appointed ones, said Don Warden, the county's director of administration and finance.

Voters changed the hiring process for the coroner and the treasurer.

They decided forensic pathology was too sophisticated, and that the job should be carried out by a full-time staff professional, he said. The other became appointed after a treasurer had to resign amid controversy. One of his staffers was embezzling funds, and he didn't catch it. He was also running a private business while in office and accused of spending too much of his time on that task than the one he was elected to handle.

"Right now, the clerk and recorder is an elected position," Cozad said. "The charter committee could look at that."

Commissioners Cozad and Moreno, along with Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, have had brief discussions on the matter this week with Warden and County Attorney Bruce Barker, they said.

The other two commissioners — Conway and Chairman Mike Freeman — have been out of town.

"We're not doing anything until we all five talk," Moreno said.

Officials believe they'll discuss the matter more Tuesday and then add it to the agenda for Wednesday's meeting.

What’s next?

Weld County officials plan to discuss creating a charter committee during the next regular Board of Weld County Commissioners meeting, 9 a.m. Wednesday at the county administration building, 1150 O. St.