Will Weld voters retain their county council? You didn’t know they had one?
Author: Dan Njegomir - October 4, 2017 - Updated: October 4, 2017
True confession: It wasn’t until Complete Colorado‘s hard-charging investigative reporter Sherrie Peif reported on a Weld County ballot issue this November to abolish the Weld County Council that we realized one even existed. Perhaps it’s because the five-member, non-partisan, unpaid, elected governing body is unlike any other in the state. As Peif explains:
The council is unique to Weld. It was created and approved by the voters in 1975. It became effective with the rest of the charter in January 1976.
Its main purpose is to oversee the county’s elected officials and other certain aspects of county government to act as a checks and balances on the system without state interference, such as setting salaries for commissioners, the sheriff, the clerk and recorder and the assessor; acting as a vacancy board for commissioners and ordering performance audits on officials.
In other words, it’s sort of a built-in, quasi-independent county watchdog. Peif reports that a recent performance audit the council conducted on the Weld County Commission may have spurred their move to dump the council. It’s being advanced by four of the five commissioners, who voted to place the proposal on the ballot.
Now, Peif finds, assorted citizens, including political notables, are pushing back. They’re questioning the wisdom of the proposal itself — as well as the motives of the commission majority that’s behind it:
Those against the issue say this is a power grab by commissioners Barb Kirkmeyer, (Julie) Cozad, Mike Freeman and Steve Moreno. And many are upset the election is costing voters $150,000.
Dave Kisker, President of People United for Responsible Government (PURGe), a 501 (c)(4) formed to watch dog Weld officials, has said the issue was rushed through in an act of retribution for the audit and a waste of taxpayer money. Kisker said the commissioners should have waited, formed a charter review committee and considered it for the 2018 election.
The proposal has its proponents, too:
Bill Jerke, a former commissioner and one of four who initially asked for it to be put on the ballot has said the council is an extra layer of government that is not needed, that it doesn’t do anything, and that most members are partisan with an ax to grind. Jerke, however, has agreed the timing is bad and feels rushed.
Peif then dug deeper into the issue to see what some other prominent pols in the county think of the idea. Almost all of those she was able to reach said they were voting “no”; they included Democrats, like state Rep. Dave Young of Greeley, as well as Republicans, like former Weld Sheriff and now state Sen. John Cooke. 4th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, of Windsor — he’s the former Weld County D.A. — is a “no,” too.
Our thanks to Peif for doing a whole lot of heavy lifting to flesh out this story — and for teaching us a thing or two about Weld County we didn’t know. However the vote turns out in Weld, wouldn’t it be ironic if the publicity prompted some other counties — where citizens may be disenchanted with business as usual — to establish county councils of their own?