Garfield County commissioner disputes gag order claim |

Garfield County commissioner disputes gag order claim

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Garfield County Commissioner John Martin didn’t expect his proposed accountability policy at the Jan. 19 commissioners meeting would have created as much controversy as it has.

“To continue to beat this dead horse that we’re trying to put a gag on any commissioner is wrong,” Martin said at the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Feb. 2.

The accountability policy, according to Martin, is to protect the overall, or majority, view of the commission’s stance when an individual commissioner is representing the commission on other boards, committees or groups.

Democratic Commissioner Tresi Houpt challenged some of the language in the proposed resolution because she said that she felt it would not allow her to speak her opinion. But Martin insisted that the resolution is not to keep commissioners from voicing their individual opinions but rather to protect the commission’s view on issues.

“The idea behind the policy (is) so we don’t get ourselves in a pickle,” Martin said. “This is not to suppress or muffle anybody’s voice, but just to protect us so that we follow the rules and regulations and we don’t get the county or individuals in a pickle.”

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The resolution was brought up at the Feb. 2 meeting by Gerard Vanderbeek during the public comment portion. Vanderbeek said that from what he’s read in the newspapers it sounded as if Martin was trying to restrain Houpt from voicing her opinion.

“When I read there was an apparent move to put a gag on a certain commissioner with regard to speaking out on issues in a committee that Commissioner Houpt was appointed to by the governor … I found that very disturbing and wrong,” Vanderbeek said.

Martin responded by saying, “There is no intent whatsoever to gag anyone. In fact we’re encouraging them (to speak). The only policy we have follows the republic that we live in: that the majority rules when there is a decision that has been made, period. That’s all the policy allows. It’s not to gag anyone. It’s not to inhibit anyone. It’s not to take away their voting.”

Houpt said that she was happy to hear Martin’s response, because she believes that removing two or three paragraphs from the resolution that she felt were restricting would accomplish that.

To clarify Vanderbeek’s point regarding Houpt’s position on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the proposed policy would not apply. It refers only to committees where the commissioners are representing the Garfield County commissioners.

County Commissioner Mike Samson said that he supports the policy.

County commissioners discussed the resolution at a work session on Jan. 26. Each will have 60 days from the work session to make revisions as they see fit. The commission will vote to adopt or deny the resolution in March.

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