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.
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of Facebook page, Robert Rowland