A group of local citizens are currently collecting signatures in an attempt to recall Park County Commissioners Richard Elsner and Ray Douglas.
The drive to obtain the required number of signatures to prompt a recall vote is yet to gain much momentum, however, and only about one-third of the necessary signatures have been collected thus far.
The recall effort is being led by a group which refers to itself as the South Park Outsiders.
The crux of the recall effort stems from charges that the commissioners repeatedly signed public health orders that infringed upon the rights of Park County residents to assemble peaceably or freely practice religion, and that the measures signed by the commissioners called for physically restraining citizens to their homes if ill.
That and other allegations are posted on a website (www.parkcountyrecall.com) launched in support of the effort. The site also states that by limiting attendance at county public meetings, the commissioners infringed upon citizens’ right to redress the government.
“There was no due process when enacting these mandates and it was done in exchange for money,” the site also claims.
The commissioners, however, are quick to point out the money to which the group refers totals $1.8 million and was issued to the county by the state and distributed to local businesses as a relief measure following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, the commisioners insist that those relief funds might not have been available had Park County not complied with state issued mandates during the pandemic.
Both commissioners returned calls promptly and spoke with The Flume Monday, and both provided extensive rebuttles to the group’s allegations.
Douglas provided the following response:
“Under Colorado Revised Statute 24-33.5-704(1), “The governor is responsible for meeting the dangers to the state and people presented by disasters.
On March 10, 2020, the Governor of Colorado declared a State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic authorizing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to mandate stay at home orders, mask wearing, and closing of “non-essential businesses.”
To help mitigate the financial loss to employees and employers, Park County, acting as a branch of state government, was awarded $1.8 million to distribute, by approved application, to people and businesses within Park County. Without a Public Health Order in place in Park County, these funds would not have been available.
Colorado Revised Statute 24-33.5-704 (6.5g) gives the governor the ability to, “Control ingress and egress from a disaster area, the movement of persons within the area, and the occupancy of premises therein.”
As mandated by CDPHE, capacity restrictions became the norm. Park County responded and started online Board of County Commissioner (BOCC) meetings. Residents were, and still are, able to participate in BOCC meetings via the Zoom platform and were not denied the ability to participate.
As (6.5g) stated above, it is the governor who is able to restrict movement of persons and occupancy of premises. To the best of my knowledge, no one was ever “physically restrained,” or detained in their home. This would have been accomplished by the sheriff’s office or CDPHE.
Everything the Park County Board of Commissioners did was to protect the health and welfare of the residents of the county in an uncertain time with the best knowledge available.
Elsner made the following remarks in response to the recall effort and associated allegations.
“Our compliance with state mandated orders, and our cooperation with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment was all part of an effort to keep businesses from losing any more than they already had as a result of the pandemic. As a result of those efforts, we were one of the first counties to be granted variances for wedding and church venues, and we were also one of the counties that did not have to abide by ‘threat level red’ procedures and managed to stay open over the Christmas holidays.
We did everything we could to keep the county open, and we signed no orders that were any more stringent than what was already mandated by state law. I believe recalls should be reserved for cases in which there has been some wrongdoing or someone has been harmed in some way. There was simply no wrongdoing on our part and no damage done to anyone in Park County as a result of any orders we issued.”
Meanwhile, Kimberly Gregory of South Park Outsiders is spearheading the recall effort against the commissioners and says her group is also attempting to have an audit conducted with regards to the $1.8 million in relief funds distributed to Park County businesses.
Gregory also provided the following statement to The Flume in support of her group’s position.
“I am a concerned citizen and constituent in Park County who has chosen to organize a dedicated group of people in which one of the things we do is hold our elected government officials to account. One of the ways we have now chosen to redress our grievances (our constitutional right) is to start the recall process.
Ray Douglas and Richard Elsner chose to follow an unconstitutional request by our governor for months by signing orders which violated their sacred constitutional oath of office. They did this willingly in exchange for money for emergency use only in the county. Our other constitutionally compliant commissioner, Amy Mitchell, refused to sign anything that violated that oath and violated the people of Park County’s constitutionally protected rights. This is not personal. They took an oath. They violated that oath. They have lost my trust in their positions and many others agree, and their voting record, in my opinion, shows they will simply keep doing the same going forth. In any other job position they would be fired. I am asking for the people of Park County to come together in the next two weeks and stand up for their freedoms in this county and hold the people who serve us to account. Without integrity at the highest level from those we have elected, we are in jeopardy of losing all our protected rights. I will do anything I can with integrity to help the people of Park County protect those rights.”
It would require 2,726 signatures to prompt a special election to recall Elsner, and 2,343 for Douglas. Those numbers equal 25 per cent of the number of votes each commissioner received when elected.
Gregory said she and others on the recall committee are hoping to have all signatures collected by Nov. 5.
If the necessary signatures were obtained, the county would have 28 days to review and approve them and the commissioners would have 14 days to appeal the process.
The recall election, which constitutes a special election, must take place at least 60 days before or after general elections. Therefore, the earliest date in which a recall election could be held would be January of 2022.
Stay tuned to The Flume for news and events related to this story in upcoming editions.