Weld Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes’ personnel file reveals she dealt with sexist comments in the workplace, got little help from supervisors | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes’ personnel file reveals she dealt with sexist comments in the workplace, got little help from supervisors

Tyler Silvy

Carly Koppes.

As a young employee in the Weld County Clerk and Recorder's Office, County Clerk Carly Koppes endured sexist comments at the hands of seasonal male subordinates, according to documents from Koppes' personnel file obtained by The Tribune.

Koppes prepared the documents herself, keeping a running, contemporaneous list of bad experiences from 2008-13. She learned the technique at a professional conference, and she said it ended up being the only recourse she had against sexism and insubordination because Steve Moreno, the Weld County Clerk and Recorder at the time, wouldn't take action.

Moreno said it's not true, saying none of the problems were brought to his attention.

The Tribune uncovered the documents after requesting Koppes' personnel file. The Tribune already requested clerk and recorder candidate Elisa Kunkel's file to vet statements and allegations Kunkel made in a federal lawsuit against Koppes, her former boss, and as part of her campaign. County officials sought clarification from a judge before releasing Kunkel's file, which is expected to be released Friday.

Koppes' file, which she made public of her own accord, is nearly spotless, but contains the allegations about her treatment at the hands of male seasonal workers and the resulting inaction on the part of Moreno.

Koppes was a mid-level employee in the clerk and recorder's office, and was in her early 20s when she was given authority over a warehouse that served as a staging area for voting center supplies.

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During the buildup to primary and general elections, the Weld County Clerk and Recorder's Office hires seasonal workers to staff the warehouse.

And these workers in 2008 were older men not keen on taking orders from Koppes.

"I don't let my wife tell me what to do, so why do you think I am going to let a young girl tell me what to do?" Koppes documented in her file.

"Go back to the kitchen and let the men handle this warehouse," read another comment she documented.

Koppes' supervisor at the time was Rudy Santos. He is now the chief deputy clerk at the office, and he said Koppes told him about the problems at the time. She told him she went to Moreno, too, Santos said, as he wasn't at work as much at the time due to welcoming twins to his family.

In Koppes' December 2008 evaluation, Santos noted issues with warehouse employees, but Moreno said he never looked into those issues and Santos said he never followed up with Moreno.

"I thought it was handled by upper management," Santos said. "In hindsight, I wish I would have taken more action."

Apart from Santos and Moreno, Koppes said she didn't tell anybody else at the time, including her family. Finally, in 2013, Koppes said she placed the notes in her file and talked with Weld County Human Resources Director Patti Russell about the problems.

Russell said she never met with Koppes about those problems.

Moreno, likewise, denies ever having a conversation with Koppes about the allegations described in her file.

"I don't know what she's talking about," Moreno said. "I don't know how I can handle it if it wasn't brought to my attention."

Moreno says he wasn't Koppes' direct supervisor, and that issues would have — or should have — been brought to Santos. Moreno also raised questions about the lack of dates or improperly dated entries in Koppes' self-created document.

"It just doesn't hold water with me," Moreno said. "It invalidates everything she's saying."

Moreno said it was "interesting" that Koppes chose to put the documents in her file in 2013, but he also appeared to question Koppes on that front, saying Koppes recently visited the human resources department to view her file.

Moreno talked with Russell about the allegations, and Russell asked an HR employee to document via email Koppes' visit to the office, which occurred the week of Jan. 15. Russell specifically asked the HR employee whether Koppes brought papers with her, saying she didn't know where the documents containing allegations of sexism came from.

"I did not see any papers or files in her possession when she sat at the computer," the employee said in the email. "I did not see any activity that I would deem suspicious."

The email was sent two weeks after Koppes' visit but just two hours after The Tribune requested an interview with Moreno about the allegations in Koppes' file.

Koppes' experience has come to light amid a nationwide conversation on the treatment of women in and out of the workplace. Although she didn't tell family members at the time, Koppes has since had those discussions. She had experienced it. So had her mom, her aunt, her grandmother.

When she finally approached Russell in 2013, Russell told Koppes nothing could be done because Moreno was an elected official, Koppes said. Russell denies having that conversation, but she did say human resources staff has limited options in dealing with accusations about elected officials.

Koppes' notes landed in her personnel file, never to be seen — until The Tribune requested her file.

"(The notes) would have stayed in there," Koppes said. "I never had any intention to bring this up or bring it out."

She's forgiven the workers, Koppes said. It seems, too, that she made peace with Moreno, at least enough to never reveal those notes.

"What would have been the point?" Koppes said. "I'm always loyal to the people who treated me well. As an employee, besides this instance, Steve gave me good opportunities."

Koppes, who is running for re-election in 2018, earned nothing but positive evaluations throughout her time as an employee of the Weld County Clerk and Recorder's Office. In the vast majority of her evaluations, which rated several categories of performance, Koppes' work was seen as outstanding or exceeding expectations. A handful of individual ratings indicated Koppes met expectations, and she was chided a couple of times for not working well with others.

She received regular raises and promotions, as well, and was generally regarded as knowledgeable, accurate, customer service-oriented and flexible.

But she was also, at least for a time, hurt.

She said she went to Moreno for help on more than one occasion. Koppes said his answer in at least one instance — that she might not be cut out for warehouse work because she was a girl — felt horrible.

"I worked really hard for Steve," Koppes said, dabbing away tears in her office Tuesday afternoon.

Even if she has left the past behind, it still drives Koppes today. She says if a similar complaint makes its way to her today, she'll take it more seriously.

She said anybody can do any job in the Weld County Clerk and Recorder's Office.

"If you're able to do the job, I'm going to give you the opportunity," Koppes said. "That's truly tied to my experience."

— Tyler Silvy covers government and politics for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at tsilvy@greeleytribune.com. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.

More to come

The Tribune’s request for Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes’ personnel file came more than a week after requesting similar documents related to Elisa Kunkel, a former motor vehicle employee. Kunkel is running for clerk and recorder against Koppes, and also is suing Koppes in federal court, alleging Koppes retaliated against her when Kunkel blew the whistle on poor office management and culture. Kunkel attempted to block the release of portions of her personnel file, and Weld County filed a petition in Weld District Court to ask a judge to decide what documents were releasable. District Court Judge Marcelo Kopcow in a ruling this past week said he would release the vast majority of the records The Tribune and Complete Colorado requested, and barring an appeal, those documents will be released at 9 a.m. Friday.