Commissioners consider filing lawsuit for defamation

Defamation, harassment may be listed in allegations against former resident

Advertisement

Moffat County Commissioners have decided it's time to look into taking legal action against the parties they hold responsible for the collapse of the Public Safety Center refinancing loan.

At a meeting last Monday, Commissioner Les Hampton stated he received an e-mail from Jeff Taylor, a West Coast resident who has taken a strong interest in Moffat County government and who commissioners blame for costing the county the refinacing loan. Hampton said the email had been forwarded to Governor Bill Owens and the state attorney general.

"It is a five-page letter that makes accusations ... this letter is filled with paraphrasing and opinion and quite frankly, I am sick of this! I am going to ask you both to review this letter and we need to make a determination and it is about time Moffat County takes legal action against this outrageous conduct," Hampton is recorded as saying in the meeting's unofficial minutes.

Kathleen Taylor, Moffat County attorney, said the commissioners did request she look into Taylor's e-mails. She declined to comment further.

Alan Matzlowz, representative of George K. Baum, the financial group that was working on the refinancing loan, said part of the reason the county did not receive the $3.5 million loan they requested was because of e-mails sent by Jeff Taylor, who accused commissioners of malfeasance for illegally transferring money between county funds.

G.K. Baum had approached Ambac Financial Group to insure the refinancing loan. Ambac opted against insuring it, but Ambac representatives have not returned phone calls to explain why they made their decision.

"FYI, the current BOCC has a very likely chance of a court ordered removal in 2004, nobody has the authority to say otherwise," Jeff Taylor wrote in one e-mail to David McDougall, Managing Director Western Public Finance Risk Manager at Ambac.

It's e-mails such as that one that have Hampton and Raftopoulos up in arms.

Aside from correspondence with G.K. Baum and Ambac, Jeff Taylor has written to Gov. Owens, Attorney General Ken Salazar, Denver news stations and several newspapers regarding the commissioners, with a focus on Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos.

"This harassment has been ongoing since 1999. That's four years of this," Raftopoulos is recorded as saying in the minutes. "That is not right. There is nothing right in this. There is nothing correct in this. Let me clear up one thing, those accusations of malfeasance, there doesn't have to be any legitimacy to this. The district attorney has to investigate it."

Jeff Taylor has never been registered to vote in Moffat County, he does not own land here, nor has he ever considered himself a resident of the county.

"My only priority is to reveal the lies and distortions of the government," he said

during a phone interview

Friday afternoon.

About four years ago, Jeff Taylor lived in Moffat County for several months, when his relatives bought property across the street from Raftopoulos' property. Raftopoulos said they got along at first. Taylor offered to provide his insight on telecommunications, since he has knowledge in that field and the county was involved in a negotiation with NC Telecom.

This much both Raftopoulos and Taylor agree upon: The commissioner board and Taylor disagreed on the best action to take regarding the NC Telecom deal. After the disagreement, both parties accused the other of turning on them.

Raftopoulos has requested that Kathleen Taylor research the line between freedom of speech and harassment. She said that many of Jeff Taylor's communications are attacks on her family and her character.

Many of his e-mails focus on Raftopoulos because she has been in office longer than any other commissioner, Taylor said. He described her as the "hen who hatched the Public Safety Center," and he holds her accountable for the county's financial problems.

In one e-mail sent to several media outlets, Taylor outlined Raftopoulos' personal history, including her high school education and marriage, and describes a murder investigation her uncle was involved in. He goes on to speculate on her future political ambitions in Grand Junction and Mesa County.

Taylor said communications of this type aren't personal because Raftopoulos is a publicly elected official, and therefore, her history is of interest to the public.

But Raftopoulos disagreed.

"You can see by reading the material he has crossed the line," she said. She said she has felt "threatened" by Taylor and was worried enough to contact the Sheriff Department.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.