A monthslong investigation into a Douglas County commissioner by her colleagues wrapped up last week but the full results will not be released publicly.
The commissioners met in an executive session July 26 to discuss the investigative report about Lora Thomas, which cost about $17,000 in legal fees to produce.
When they came out of the closed-door meeting, Thomas said she wished to see the report released to the public. In a board statement posted later that day, the county called the report “privileged & confidential” and said it wouldn’t be released.
In the past, commissioners have voted to allow similar documents to be made public.
Commissioners Abe Laydon and George Teal asked for an investigation into Thomas in April after they said she went against their direction and asked their legal counsel for information about supporters of a controversial water proposal from the San Luis Valley. The proposal, from Renewable Water Resources, had strong opposition in the southern Colorado community.
During his process to decide if he supported the project, Laydon announced plans to meet with farmers who he said supported the project but feared negative financial ramifications if their stance became public.
“Protecting those vulnerable individuals was a priority of this board,” Laydon said.
Thomas maintains she didn’t ask for personal identifying information, only the names of people and organizations who would attend the meeting.
“It was not to be released,” she said. “I had every right as a commissioner to know who you were meeting with.”
Laydon said that someone’s name alone is enough to find their home address, occupation and other personal identifying information, “especially in a really small community.”
The water proposal is no longer being considered by the commissioners for federal COVID relief dollars.
They also accused Thomas of creating a hostile work environment and causing the resignation of a first responder in the county by distributing an anonymous letter received by the county that detailed concerns about employees of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation found that Thomas did distribute that letter but didn’t determine who wrote it, according to the county’s announcement.
“The investigation found that it was more likely than not that Commissioner Thomas did not create a hostile work environment or cause the discharge of a former employee,” according to the public announcement.
Thomas said she also wanted it known that she was willing to participate in the investigation only if she could have an attorney present.
In the statement posted to the county website, Laydon commented on the findings.
“Our valued citizens expect the county to govern, not be enmeshed in political sideshows which detract from our work,” he said. “The results of this investigation support the decision to remove Lora Thomas as Chair while underscoring our need to focus this board on public priorities, integrating professionalism, respect, and service into our board governance.”