Long: CDPHE has become the Colorado Department of Public Harassment and Exceeding the law
Author: Pam Long - October 3, 2016 - Updated: October 2, 2016
For seven years, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) has abused its power. It is overdue for a Senate Oversight Committee to put it in check and balance.
Recently, I was talking to a Colorado lawmaker about my concerns with CDPHE’s unresolved 2016 state audit that found serious conflicts of interests within CDPHE awarding years of contracts to a vendor that had several CDPHE employees on its board. The representative shared a little-known fact that CDPHE is the one state department that only acts responsibly within its authority under statute when faced with a lawsuit. So I went searching, and I was shocked to find numerous lawsuits against CDPHE from nearly every major group in the health and environment communities: the pro-life, water & wildlife alliance, legal defense for DUI defendants, legal defense for homeschool families, medical cannabis, military veterans and parental rights.
From 2009 to 2013, CDPHE reinstated contracts with Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood and illegally paid $14 million in state funds to an abortion provider. The former head of CDPHE filed a lawsuit against the health department for directly violating the state constitution.
In 2010, CDPHE conducted closed-door meetings instead of allowing the required public stakeholder involvement regarding uranium processing in Canon City. Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste filed a lawsuit against CDPHE for violating laws in transparency. This lack of deference to public scrutiny becomes a common theme in all the lawsuits with CDPHE.
In 2011, CDPHE violated federal and state laws by putting the burden of cleaning up uranium contaminated groundwater on taxpayers. The Sheep Mountain Alliance filed a lawsuit against CDPHE because it issued a license for a new uranium processing mill near Telluride. Uranium mills always contaminate groundwater, and clean up costs to taxpayers are estimated at $50 million.
In 2012, Colorado’s DUI lawyers were outraged by the CDPHE’s reluctant admission that 1,700 blood samples from DUI suspects needed retesting due to incompetence of the toxicology lab. Another reoccurring theme in CDPHE’s response to its own misconduct is that one low-level employee is reprimanded or fired to appease the public while an organizational bias is allowed to persist in the leadership. This is demonstrated in my next point.
In 2013, another audit of the CDPHE found that the supervisor of the toxicology lab was biased in favor of DUI prosecutors and lied about blood tests for over a decade.
In 2014, eight doctors filed a lawsuit against CDPHE for witch-hunt style medical board reviews for doctors who legally prescribe cannabis.
In 2015, CDPHE denied the right of combat veterans with PTSD use of medicinal cannabis during a facade of a public board of health hearing. Veterans filed a lawsuit for their right to use neuro-protective cannabis oil instead of SSRI medications with known side effects.
In 2016, CDPHE attempted to pass a bill (HB 16-1164) to create a new vaccine database and online state tracking system for every child’s and adult’s vaccine status. When the bill failed for serious concerns over medical privacy and the potential for abuse, CDPHE pretended that its registry bill passed and mandated that schools use a new online vaccine exemption form that is not authorized in Colorado law. The form includes compelled speech about putting the public at risk for using a lawful exemption, which resulted in homeschool lawyers threatening a lawsuit.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg’s Health and Human Services committee questioned the head of CDPHE this year for acting beyond legislative authority. Dr. Larry Wolk responded with defiance on public record.
It is time to put the power back in the hands of the people, and give an oversight committee the power to police the CDPHE in 2017.