River district says Fischer dismissed in wake of Sentinel series

When former Congressman Scott McInnis hired Roland “Rolly” Fischer as his “research assistant,” he got a man who knew his stuff, or seemed to, according to people who know him.

Fischer was hired by the Colorado River Water Conservation District in 1968 as secretary-engineer. He was the district’s first and only employee at that time. As the district grew, so did Fischer’s job, which evolved into the position of general manager, even though he kept the secretary-engineer title until he left the district in 1996, according to district spokesman Chris Treese.

By the time Fischer left the district, it employed 18 people and Fischer was the boss. He is now at the heart of a growing scandal first reported by the Denver Post Monday in which McInnis blames Fischer for plagiarizing sections of water articles the gubernatorial candidate was paid $300,000 to produce in 2005 and 2006. Fischer told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent Tuesday that, “Scott’s responsible for it.”

According to Treese, the board of directors dismissed Fischer for reasons that were not made public. Treese acknowledged, though, that the dismissal followed a series of articles in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Those articles are not available on the Sentinel’s web site, but in Tuesday’s paper, reporter Charles Ashby characterized the articles thusly:

“Fischer retired in 1996 after The Daily Sentinel published a series of articles showing that the river district hired two companies operated by his wife, Tillie, without going to a competitive bid. Fischer was part owner of those businesses, which handled payroll accounts and general administrative functions.”

Treese said Fischer would have been “absolutely qualified” to assist McInnis in writing water papers. Another employee at the district said, “His knowledge of water is unimpeachable.”

Fischer has not returned two phone calls.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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