Bent County Commissioners VS Porn Messages, Includes: Grant Fraud Allegations
Description: Former Bent County Commissioner, Bill Long addressed the Bent County Commissioners Tuesday regarding their failed resolution to create a county manager position. Read responses from Chuck Netherton, Amanda Leck, and Kim MacDonnell in this article exclusive to SECO News. (Press Play for Article Read Through)
Bent County Commissioners VS Porn Messages, Includes: Grant Fraud Allegations
This article contains:
Listen to the audio version here:
Letter to Bent County Commissioners from Bill Long + Resolution No 2022-14 and Exhibit A (attached in gallery)
Letter from Bent County Commissioner Kim MacDonnell
Bent County Administrator Amanda Leck Interview Transcript
Bent County Commissioner Chuck Netherton Interview Transcript
Letter To Bent County Commissioners Regarding Resolution No. 2022-14 & Pornographic Messages
Here is the complete letter from former County Commissioner Bill Long. Resolution No. 2022-14 and Exhibit A (County Manager Job Description and Duties) are attached in the photo gallery below.
October 25, 2022
I am pleased you did not adopt Resolution No. 2022-14 and the attached Exhibit A last week as you intended.
It is unconscionable to think that you would even consider adopting such drastic changes to county policy with no input from your fellow elected officials, county staff and the public.
It is also unconscionable for you to think it is acceptable to remove many of the responsibilities of your fellow elected official as well as staff supervisors, some who have been with the county 20 - 30 years and assign those responsibilities to someone who has only been employed as the county administrator for maybe 120 days.
It is well known based on your reckless talk in community of what should be confidential personnel matters, that you have considered terminating at least four individuals. Is this policy change to accommodate that effort?
Recent Facebook posts make many of your constituents question the relationship between the chair of the commission and the county administrator. I have a copy of those Facebook posts with me. Would you like me to read them?
And last, I have great concerns regarding the competence of the board chair. I have recently received from concerned county residents the most disrespectful, degrading, and dehumanizing photos that Commissioner Netherton has shared with many via texts and Facebook messaging... Commissioner Netherton apparently has little or no respect for women and Governor Polis. Bent County's largest employer, Core Civic, who is also the largest property taxpayer and the firm who contributes an additional $518,300 to Bent County annually, relies on a good relationship with the Governor and his administration as does Bent County. The photos and associated comments are cruel and disgusting insults to all women.
Today I am sharing with you, the elected officials and county attorney, a sample of the many photos and documents that Commissioner Netherton has shared with many, unsolicited via texts and Facebook messaging. Due to the offensive and pornographic nature of these photos and documents, I do not intend to share them with the audience at this time. However, I will share the photos and documents upon request.
Resolution 2022-14 and Exhibit A are attached in the photo gallery below.
Response Letter from Kim MacDonnell
Resolution 2022-14 was brought to the Bent County Board of County Commissioners for consideration at the Board’s October 20, 2022 meeting. At that meeting, Commissioner Sykes moved for adoption of the Resolution. I stated that I could not and would not second the Motion as I had many questions about the document. Of particular concern was the authority given to the County Administrator to supervise, evaluate, hire and terminate all positions in the County except for Sheriff Deputies. I could not support moving forward absent discussion with Elected Officials, Department Heads and our attorney. After much discussion, Commissioner Sykes rescinded her Motion.
About 25 people, including Elected Officials, Department Heads and members of the public, joined the Work Session on October 25, 2022 to voice concerns about the Resolution.
Every one of the Elected Officials present strongly disagreed with the County Administrator being given authority over their offices and staff.
The primary concerns raised by the Public were that this Resolution was brought forward for adoption with no opportunity for input or questions. It gave authority to the County Administrator that intersected with existing duties, roles and responsibilities of other Bent County elected officials, Department Heads and even agencies outside of County management. Community members also stated that they elected the Commissioners, not an Administrator to represent their interests and run the County business. The authority proposed was very broad and even described some duties that have been the role of the Commissioners.
Another concern brought forward was that one of the Commissioners, being myself, Commissioner MacDonnell, is routinely excluded from discussions about County business. I’ve known this for some time, and on many occasions have learned about decisions the Commissioners are contemplating from third parties. This absence of leadership is unconscionable, and unacceptable governance.
During the meeting former County Commissioner Bill Long read a prepared Statement. It restated the above, and also called into question the intent of the Resolution, given the fact that comments have been made by Commissioner Netherton in the community about 4 individuals he would like to fire four specific county employees.
The most alarming part of Mr. Long’s Statement was that Commissioner Netherton has sent out, via text and other messaging platforms, pornographic images that demeaned women and Governor Polis. Mr. Long gave copies of his statement and select pictures to the Commissioners and the Bent County Attorney. I found the photos and captions to be disturbing and unfit to have come from a sitting County Commissioner.
Bent County Administrator Amanda Leck Responded During a Phone Interview
We included the complete interview transcript:
"That was written by our insurance company and our attorney as a pathway to release fiscal liability off of elected officials, it wasn't to take away any power or change the structure or how things were done. It's used by county after county in Colorado."
"Typically when a resolution comes up I forward it to the commissioners, but I had been off for two weeks with Covid, so the county clerk forwarded it to them the night before. When we all got the resolution we all read it and we were like wow, this needs changed, it had stuff in there that was out dated that the attorney had missed, so they decided not to pass it."
"Basically what happened is we were working off the advice and the wisdom of the attorney and the insurance company who wrote it and once we started reading it in the meeting and Commissioner MacDonnell pointed out that there were some things that were outdated, and some questions, and some wording that needed changed. Jean said, oh that's right, good catching that, I rescind my motion, so it legally wasn't motioned or anything."
"So when the attorney got a hold of my job description, which I was hired under in July, he said Amanda you were hired under this job description it's really outdated, so I'm going to bring it up to terms because it was very masculine, it was all written in male terms, it wasn't written in female terms, things like that."
"So, when he made those adjustments, made it gender neutral and took out things that were outdated like using a fork lift, and things that this role no longer does, because our maintenance staff handles all of that now."
"The whole hullabaloo that it would take power and authority away from elected officials, that was never the intent. The attorney has completely tried to explain to them that if you read the Colorado Statute Law, that law explicitly describes how none of that power could or would be taken away from those offices."
"There's a much bigger story to this, I don't know if you'd heard they brought in like 40 people to cause an uproar over it."
"So they were having a conversation about authority and power and the county commissioners and county attorney and the county insurance policy holder were trying to have a conversation about legal liability and saying hey if you guys want somebody fired and don't want the legal liability for it you know come down and make the recommendation to Amanda and it's in her job description she can do that task for you and then you have no legal liability."
"And they were like 'we want our power and authority' and the commissioners were like 'you don't lose your power and authority.'"
"We were on our work session schedule for the day was just the budget and Bill Long decided to stand up and make a presentation and we were like woah this is kind of crazy. To my knowledge this never happened in any work session ever before. We had budget scheduled from 9 am until 5 pm."
"One of his main concentrations was that he was alleging emails were not being shared with one of the county commissioners and I'm like that's ridiculous because since before I started she's always had the password to my email so she can see everything."
"So he said 'I want to CORA request that and show that emails haven't been sent to her.' That's totally cool, I'm like I pass my laptop around the office, anyone can see what I write, I know it's open, so I could care less."
"The allegations about that there's four people I want to fire, there have never been four people that I've wanted to fire, or would even consider firing, so that's completely false."
"I posted a picture of my dog and he said something like oh you must not feed your dog, which is a joke because my dog is super, super obese. I call her my fat chihuahua, and I said she's super fluffy and I just said she's really pretty and it kinda looks like he was saying I was, but I read it like he was talking about my dog."
"So I'm like, that's all you have one Facebook post?"
"His son-in-law stood up and was like, 'we seen you riding in his truck with him.' I'm like yeah, there's no elected official in this county that I haven't ridden with including the city, so that's kind of weird."
"So, I'm in a relationship with everyone I've every been in a vehicle with?"
SECO News: So there's no merit to that?
"No, absolutely not."
"I'm not going to talk about it much, but I've talked to other reporters about it that you know this is just continuation of harassment."
"I'm under federal whistleblower protection because I reported grant fraud and all I can say is the people that are pointing the finger at me alleging that I've done my job poorly or I've done anything wrong all I can say is I had a federal special agent in my office interview me for hours and tell me that they have found that this was grant fraud."
"I'm under federal whistleblower protection so I wouldn't piss around with me, but people aren't really smart though. It's a federal crime to harass me."
Bent County Commissioner Chuck Netherton Responded
We gave Chuck Netherton the opportunity to respond to the allegations. The following is the complete transcript from the interview.
"Bill has dug up everything he could dig up to give me a black eye and he's done a hell of a job."
"As far as the resolution goes, we had talked to CTSI, which is the county's insurance pool, basically almost all counties in Colorado use the same pool, CTSI. We were informed that with a elected official firing someone we're putting the county at risk because of politics... Basically what they came back to me was say for instance someone is working in an office of an elected official. They decide they want that office and they run against the elected official and they lose. Well, then if something happens in the office and the elected official decides they need to terminate that person. That person can come back and say well they got rid of me because I ran against them in the office and they have an issue with that. So, this resolution was designed to take that risk away from the county and away from the elected official and give it, in someone's job description, give them the ability to terminate someone. However, it was not meant to allow them to terminate someone without the elected official's input and thoughts and it could be appealed to the board if and when that did happen."
"Also, our county attorney who is Nathan Shultz recommended the same thing to protect the county from being sued should something go awry. So, that was the whole purpose behind this and it wasn't to usurp anyone's power it wasn't to take anyone's input away from hiring or firing, it was simply to protect the county's interest."
"But somehow, it was to be an addendum to the county administrator's job position. and really all it was supposed to say was that the administrator has the authority to dismiss someone should it become necessary with the agreement of their supervisor, but Nate re-wrote or added this piece into the entire job description. The job description was old, the whole thing should have been revamped, but it was not and he added in a piece and they looked at the whole job description and it talked about the administrator overseeing commodities, that doesn't happen and it hasn't for years. There was a lot of things in that that should have been corrected, but we got that the night before the meeting in the agenda."
"The administrator had been out sick with Covid, and I think she announced that in the meeting. So, it came up in our agenda, which the clerk sent to us on a Wednesday night. I just kind of assumed the attorney did what we had discussed and all three commissioners had agreed upon this that this needed to be done to protect the county from a possible lawsuit."
"I guess I should have read the entire thing instead of just assuming he just added the part that we asked him to add. But, anyway one of the commissioners, Jean, made a motion to adopt the resolution. The other commissioner, Kim, refused to second it. After I kind of glanced through it, I didn't second it either. There was some discussion made and Jean withdrew her motion, so that's as far as it went. It did not get passed."
"As chair I could have seconded it, but I didn't because I have some issues there, so it died. So our thought was we'll send it back to the attorney and send it back to the drawing board and then Tuesday we were supposed to meet on it and give the attorney input on what to keep and what to get rid of and you to revamp it."
"Well, Bill showed up and the next thing I knew the room was full of people, so before we even got to that part he stood up and wanted to read a three-minute letter that he had written. Normally we don't do that if you're not on the agenda, we have to work through the agenda, but at any rate he did that."
"To be honest with you I kind of felt like this was a vendetta and he was out to damage my reputation, which he did."
"As far as the text messages go, I was in a group text and it doesn't go public, it's just between a few guys. I won't name any names, but it was just a few guys. I had mine on an auto-forward thing, so some of them were funny and some of them were dirty, but you know my phone at that time just forwarded them. So anyways after they started getting worse, and that was three years ago, I stopped. I just opted out of that group, so I no longer received those. I thought some of them were in poor taste and I could understand how people would be offended and some of them offended me and that's why I opted out of the group, but any way, they did come off of my phone, unfortunately."
"I kind of feel like some of these things, the resolution, for instance was not passed. That's the reason the attorney was there that day was to revamp it, so I guess I don't quite understand if it didn't pass why everyone was so upset. I kind of feel like I was singled out and they dug pretty hard to find some issues against me. Those pictures were three years old, they were sent as a private text not as a public text, and I no longer do that."
"Some things that I have an issue with is, I think Bill is really mad at me and he's trying to get rid of me."
"One of the things I'd like to mention is his father-in-law passed away and there was a farm left to him, his wife, and their siblings; he approached the county and the city about buying it, I think his friend Kenny Wagoner did. I went and looked at it and I guess it's next to the burn pile out there, it's next to the sewer lagoon, it's next to the dog pound, and it's next to the shooting range. I didn't know why Bent County would have a need for that kind of a thing, we're not in the business of buying property. So, I encouraged the other two commissioners in an open meeting to opt out, which we did, and also the city did, so the farm was not sold."
"Bill was paid as a water consultant by Bent County through Sam Vigil's office, who was at that time the county attorney to negotiate along with a agronomist and our water attorney out of Denver an intergovernmental agreement with CSU, Colorado Springs Utilities to not have to got through the 1041 process and to financially subsidize Bent County for the loss of irrigated crop land should this water be sold, which some of it has been already. He was paid by Bent County through Sam's office as a consultant. That agreement has been signed and done by both Colorado Springs and Bent County. So, I guess my thought was why continue to pay someone for something that has already been done and we have a water attorney and an agronomist who already keep track of that, so I suggested we stop, you know, we terminate that contract, and that didn't go over very well with him, he felt like it was really necessary and Jean and I didn't. At any rate we haven't taken any action on that, but I know it's not appreciated."
"Here's the kicker, about a month ago, maybe a little more we opted out of the contract with DOLA, Department of Local Affairs, to be the fiscal agent and to be the maintenance agent for the Fort Lyon Facility. Bill started that program, he was very, very upset, but we were urged by all the people in town to opt out."
"At one point during the research we found that there was like $480,000 taken out of Bent County funds to purchase half of a boiler for Fort Lyon, that's tax payer dollars. They were given a backhoe, which a couple weeks ago the west end road bridge foreman and I went out and brought back to Bent County because it was still in our inventory, it belonged to us. That didn't go over very well."
"There were funds expended for lobbyists to get that facility in. There were monies expended for furnishings, transit, the contract had Bent County obligated for $103,000 a year for transit for the Bent County transit system, and for explicitly, in the Fort Lyon contract, the residents of Fort Lyon and again that money is coming out of the Bent County tax payers' pocket, and I just didn't see that was right."
"So, I've been on a path to curtail all of those things and I was working on the transit. The Fort Lyon contract has already been discontinued, and it will expire December 31st. We were asked to extend the transit part of it, we gave them until November 11th to come up with an alternative where DOLA or the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless would transport their own people. They ride for free. If you are a Bent County resident it costs you money."
"There are a few residents who rode that bus. It makes nine trips a day to La Junta, four trips a day to Lamar, our fuel bill last month was $10,000, not to mention the drivers, the tires, the on and on and on. The busses are owned by Bent County, not by DOLA, so every couple years we purchase another bus for a couple hundred thousand dollars. If those busses had been full I guess the citizens wouldn't have a problem with it, and I wouldn't, but you'd see those busses with two people on them. I tried to get them to do fewer trips. It made good sense to me, make fewer trips, take more people, save some money."
"We now have a grant if we accept it in place for $279,000 and it's a match grant, which Bent County's match would be equivalent to that or whatever of that grant amount was used, and again I come back to the point, how is it the Bent County tax payers' responsibility to provide transportation to the Fort Lyon residents, but Bill has a big issue about that."
"I received a text this morning, there's some issues with the Bent County Development Foundation, I don't know if you know this or not, but it's under federal investigation for grant fraud. It was a pass through for a grant for Fort Lyon. We lost $18,000 last year because of the grant fraud. I'm on that board and I had a problem with it, I didn't feel like what they were doing was right, neither did the director at that time, and it is still under investigation."
"At last meeting that I attended, Bill talked the board into putting up another $15,000 into investigating the feasibility of Fort Lyon, which I guess to me I add those two together and there's $33,000 last year out of the development foundation over to Fort Lyon, and again that's funded by tax payer money."
"Bill is the treasurer for that organization. This IGA that was passed with Colorado Springs Utilities there's a large, large, large sum of money that's earmarked for economic development. I had spoke my piece that that means economic development for Bent County not for Fort Lyon, and that didn't go over very big either."
"The gist of this, what I'm getting at is, I think I've been targeted because my political stance and I think this is a way to get me to resign from standing in the way, because right now we're finalizing the budget and I have some issues with some of the money that's been flowed from the development foundation to Fort Lyon. I guess you can word it the way you want, but I think this is a way to shut me up."
"I will say that there's a lot more things being looked into that took place during the Fort Lyon start up and there will be a lot more come to light in a pretty short period of time."
"Two weeks ago I was a hero. Our public health building sits on the armory's ground, it was built on someone else's property, the armory's property. I got a grant put together, got with the Veteran's Affairs and I got that building bought, the armory bought with grant money. So we now, as of two weeks ago, we own the property that our public health and senior citizen building sits on along with the armory, and I'm working on grant funds to rehab the armory. I was afraid when I found that out, my God if they sell that armory our public health building goes with it."
"I just finished a grant and I got a new roof on the senior center and public health, two new HVAC systems that didn't cost Bent County a single dime, its was all grant money. I got a new gravel pit put in, got it all permitted."
"The housing project that's going on by Memorial School, that project originally started between Core Civic and myself, and Stephanie Gonzales out of SCCED in Colorado Springs. So that's where all these houses being built up and down the valley, that's where they all originated from."
"I've been working on the hotel project to try to get a Cobblestone Inn to come in... What I'm trying to tell you is I've been busting my ass to try to do something here, and to do the right thing for the Bent County tax payers, this is just devastating."
"This morning I didn't go to the meeting and I guess Bill, and this is recorded, a lady was there recorded it and called me and told me about it. A remark was made that I guess this is a victory from last week's meeting, he didn't show up today."
"All I can say is I've tried my best to be honest, do what's right for Bent County's tax payers, I don't know what else to say."
"If they don't want me in anymore, the tax payers feel like they don't want me in anymore I'll resign if that's what they want me to do. I guess if these pictures are that, then I guess it's that big of deal. I don't know. A lot of guys do that kind of stuff, it was a mistake, I shouldn't have had my phone on auto-forward, I stopped it three years ago."
"I was a used car dealer for 40 years and I tried not to have that reputation really hard. If you bought a car from me you knew it was a good car or I'd make it right, that was why I was in business for 40 years, I guess this is going to change my reputation now, what else can I say. I did it and I guess looking back, how's that saying go? If you mess with the bull you're going to get the horn, I guess I messed with the bull."
SECO News spoke with the Bent County Clerk and Recorder to request meeting minutes on Thursday morning. According to the Bent County Clerk, only one commissioner attended the morning's meeting. There was not a quorum present, so the meeting was cancelled, so the previous meeting minutes had not been approved yet.
Bent County Administrator Amanda Leck confirmed that minutes were not taken at the October 25 budget work session as it isn't required.
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