Elbert County Commissioner leaves GOP, calls it “corrupt”

Elbert County Commissioner leaves GOP, calls it “corrupt”

Elbert County Commissioner Robert Rowland announced late Thursday that he is resigning from the Republican Party and becoming an unaffiliated voter.

Rowland’s decision was originally reported by Jason Salzman on the Big Media Blog.

“For the past several years I have hung onto the hope that we could restore the party from within, working for true conservative representation and liberty,” Rowland wrote on his Facebook page. “I have concluded that this is a false hope, or at least an unattainable goal in my lifetime. The party has become fractured, but worse it has become so corrupted, at every level, and it has lost its way.”

Rowland criticized the state party as an entrenched “good ole’ boy” system that he said will keep the GOP from returning to its conservative principles and values. The party “ignores accountability for failed conservatives that it blindly supports and protects,” Rowland said, specifically calling out U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Yuma and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora.

Rowland himself is no stranger to corruption.

In 2014, Rowland and his fellow county commissioners were found guilty of violating state campaign finance laws. The issue was a public forum, paid for by taxpayer money and authorized and hosted by the commissioners, that advocated for a 2013 local mill levy. Elected officials are not allowed to spend public money to advocate for ballot measures.

The judge in the case levied Rowland with a $1,000 fine and told the commissioner he would have to pay for it out of his own pocket, because Rowland was the person who authorized the illegal expenditure. The judge was emphatic that the fine not come out of the taxpayers’ pockets in Elbert County.

But Rowland ignored the judge’s order, and he persuaded the other members of the county commission to approve a resolution that would absolve them from having to pay fines related to the decision.

As first reported by The Colorado Independent, a cashier’s check, payable to Elbert County with Rowland identified as the purchaser, was given to Elbert County on April 27, 2014. On the same day, Rowland submitted a request for reimbursement from the county for the $1,000 fine, which he received three days later. Rowland, as chair of the board, signed the check.

Related: Elbert County reimbursed disgraced commissioner for $1,000 fine

Rowland’s actions earned him an ethics complaint from Colorado Ethics Watch, but the state’s Independent Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint on a 3-2 vote, calling it frivolous. State law says someone who serves on a local government board can’t vote on matters in which they have a personal interest. That dismissal led to Ethics Watch suing the Ethics Commission over whether the commission’s decisions on frivolous complaints could be appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court sided last April with the Ethics Commission.

Related: Court: Ethics Commission’s frivolous complaint rulings are final

Rowland and his fellow commissioners were also sued over the matter by two Elbert County citizens. The Elbert County District Court ruled against Rowland on the sleight-of-hand effort to avoid paying the fine, and the county wound up paying more than $21,000 in attorney’s fees.

In December, Rowland announced he would not seek a second term on the county commission.

Related: Elbert County’s embattled Tea Party commissioner won’t run again

 

Photo courtesy of Facebook page, Robert Rowland

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About the Author

Marianne Goodland

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.

2 Comments

  1. Adam on said:

    This guy belongs at the Clinton foundation indies are not interested in this kind of behavior.
    Good article Marianne.

  2. Ron Hinds on said:

    I believe the Elbert Cty BO(GOP)CC Has a serious problem. Although a Reg. Republican.. I voted for all Dems for the CC. I see the GOP won again.. so we wait until someone with some integrity speaks up, again. Personally I think they are all on the take. Receiving under the table money and are falling into the hands of the business that pays them the most $.
    I’d like someone to run under the heading of “I’m honest, I won’t lie, or take money from special interests”
    Instead we get phrases like “Leadership Matters” which says zippo about honesty and integrity. Sorry Scott.

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