Commissioners deadlock: Moffat County BOCC vote results in no action on vacant position in motor vehicle department
CRAIG — In what has become a rare occurrence for the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners, the BOCC had a split vote Tuesday morning.
Commissioners Ray Beck and Don Cook participated in the vote, which involved replacement of an employee in the Motor Vehicle Department. Commissioner Frank Moe recused himself from the discussion and stepped outside the BOCC chambers until after the vote had taken place.
“As a sitting county commissioner and candidate for re-election, I am recusing myself, so there is no conflict of interest on the personnel request from the clerk and recorder,” Moe said.
The vote, which resulted in a one-to-one tie, means no action will be taken to replace the employee, who resigned earlier in March.
Motor Vehicle Supervisor Tammy Raschke told the BOCC she was concerned the department would not be able to provide an adequate level of service to customers if the position were not filled.
She said staff often could not answer calls during the lunch hour at the office, as they are occupied with walk-in patrons at the counter. She added motor vehicle staff have become overwhelmed with their office duties outside customer service and have not been able to participate in needed training.
Raschke is running for Moffat County clerk and recorder. If she is elected, her position as motor vehicle supervisor would also become vacant, which, she said, would further contribute to the understaffing.
“When we set our policies last year, we had said that one of the ways we’re going to try to cut the budget is through attrition,” Cook said.
Cook voted against replacing the employee, encouraging staff in the clerk and recorders office to consider requesting the position be converted to a half-time position.
Beck voted in favor of replacing the employee, saying that, based on the tenets of the county’s Priority-Based Budgeting, he believed rehiring someone in the position was in the best interests of the community. Beck also said he gave his support because, in the request submitted to the BOCC, the clerk and recorders office mentioned the possibility that the position could be combined with one in the county treasurer’s office.
“While I am in favor of supporting this position, I want people to understand that my vote, based on today’s requisition, is not the precedent for future votes,” he said.
After the vote had been taken, members of the public voiced concern about Moe’s recusal, and Moe was invited back into the room.
Craig Mayor John Ponikvar, who was sitting in the audience, questioned why Moe had recused himself when it did not appear he had anything to gain or lose financially in the decision.
“How is that a conflict of interest? Because Commissioner Moe is running for political office, he doesn’t want to be a part of a possibly controversial decision?” Ponikvar asked. “According to the rules, as I know them, you shouldn’t be able to recuse yourself. You should be here to vote,”
After a long pause, Moe said he’d “have to think about that.”
According to Colorado Revised Statute 24-18-109, a local government official cannot participate in actions that would provide financial benefit for a business he or she is involved in. The statute also stipulates an official must disclose if he or she has personal or private interest in a proposed matter, and he or she shall not vote or attempt to influence the decision.
After a brief discussion as to whether the meeting was open to the audience’s questions, the BOCC decided to proceed with the planned agenda.
The last time the BOCC did not make a unanimous decision on a proposed action was Dec. 5, when Cook abstained from voting on a Local Marketing District appointee.
The BOCC also took the following actions during Tuesday’s meeting.
• Agreed to award $12,500 from the county development fund to the community broadband initiative. The county’s money will fund half of the first phase of the project. The Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership will request the remaining funds from the Craig City Council.
• Appointed Moffat County rancher Megan Kozey to the Moffat County Fair Board.
• Heard an update about funding for the Human Resource Council. Moffat County United Way Executive Director Amanda Arnold said many organizations that received funding last year would receive less or no funding this year, as the organization’s budget was slashed in half, from $80,000 to $40,000.
• Heard monthly reports from the Finance and Human Services Departments.
• Approved a request from the Department of Human Services to hire a Colorado community response coordinator with full benefits to replace an employee who resigned. The position is entirely grant-funded.
In an effort to make coal more competitive against natural gas and renewable energy sources, two of the nation’s largest coal companies, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, have announced that they plan to combine assets in Colorado and Wyoming. Routt County’s Twentymile Mine would be managed under the new joint venture.