Outside Tri-County Health Department’s administrative office at 6162 S. Willow Drive in Greenwood Village. The agency serves more than 1.5 million people in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. (Ellis Arnold, Colorado Community Media)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

Out of all the political controversy the coronavirus has caused in Colorado, the pullout of Douglas County from the Tri-County Health Department — and the domino effect it had on Adams and Arapahoe counties — may be the action that ends up having the biggest consequences on some metro Denver governments.

The costs of Arapahoe and Adams counties pulling away from Tri-County Health could be in the millions. And the situation could get a whole lot more expensive — possibly for all three counties — depending on what a court has to say about an alleged $50 million fee Tri-County Health and the counties may owe to another government body if counties continue to pull out.

At issue is a payment that the health agency may eventually owe to the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, or PERA, which provides retirement and other benefits to employees of government agencies and public entities in Colorado.

Members of PERA include public school teachers, many university and college employees, judges, state troopers, and other types of public employees.

If Tri-County Health is “allowed to withdraw from PERA without paying the withdrawal liability, all PERA members and employers will be negatively impacted,” a complaint in a lawsuit filed by the retirement association said.

PERA filed the complaint in the lawsuit on Feb. 1 against Tri-County Health and Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties.

Adams and Arapahoe are still members of Tri-County Health, but Douglas County has already formally exited Tri-County and formed its own health department.

Read more on Centennial Citizen.