by Rick Langenberg:
When Judith “JJ”Jamison won the Teller clerk and recorder seat in the summer of 2010, she garnered strong support from Republican insiders, GOP voters and Tea Party activists and easily snagged this position in a landslide tally.
But two and a half years later, many of these former allies now want her tarred and feathered, and are ready to deliver a quick boot out the door if necessary.
Apparently, the growing anti-Jamison ranks have gotten their wish, as faced with a recall ouster campaign, the Teller clerk last week announced plans to leave her position by this Friday. “I have been beat up too much and I’m not allowed to make it right,” said Jamison, according to an to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette. She said she would be compiling an official resignation letter early this week and that her departure would be effective on Feb. 1.
The imminent departure of Jamison marks probably the biggest groundswell of opposition mounted against an elected county leader since the successful recall of former assessor Chuck Pierce in the mid-1990s. If Jamison had decided to stay, she would have been targeted by a recall petition, organized by a wide group of civic leaders, representing the Republican and Democratic parties, and various community interests.
Teller leaders are cautiously optimistic about her decision and want to close the book on a several month controversy that pitted Jamison against the county commissioners and other key administrators. “She made the right decision,” said Dave Paul, the chairman of the county commissioners in an interview Friday evening. “Hopefully this will stop the madness and stop the spending,” added Paul, who have been quite vocal in the last few weeks regarding the need for Jamison to step down.
But that said, Paul noted that he is reluctant to wave any type of victory flag until Jamison actually vacates the seat. If he had his druthers, he would have preferred an immediate exit.
“The sooner she leaves the better for everyone. This has created a lot of anxiety for a lot of county departments. We need to put this behind us,” explained Paul.
But if Jamison does depart on Feb. 1 as planned, Paul and fellow commissioners Norm Steen and Marc Dettenrieder must pick a replacement. Paul stated that the board wants to study its options more before announcing its intentions and timetable for picking a successor. This will be the most important county appointment since that of Jim Ignatius, the former commissioner and frequent board chairman, who was was selected to the commission nine and a half years ago. That appointment was made by members of the Republican Central Committee.
The process, though, is different for picking a vacated clerk and recorder seat, and clearly falls in the laps of the county commissioners, noted Paul. “We want to pick someone who is capable of running the office and who is capable of running elections,” said the board chairman.” Paul wasn’t sure when this appointment will occur.
The timing of Jamison’s resignation wasn’t unexpected.
She faced much opposition from the county commissioners and key administrators regarding the handling of the primary and general elections, with Teller’s overall costs nearly hitting the $300,000 level, well about preliminary budget projections of a little more than $80,000. These expenses skyrocketed when the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office ordered the Teller government to turn over the general election proceedings to consultant Al Davidson. Davidson, with the help of other outside employees, managed the Nov. 6 election for the county and helped train the staff.
Then, in a follow-up report, Davidson didn’t exactly give Jamison a glowing review. This further aggravated county leaders, who didn’t hesitate in emphasizing the clerk’s shortcomings at public meetings. Finally, a group of community residents said enough is enough and filed a recall petition.
This group included such people as Carolyn Fairchild and Laurie Glauth, who are both leaders of the Teller Republican and Democratic parties, along with Mick Bates and a few other civic figures from key groups.
The commissioners held an emergency meeting last week and assigned El Paso Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams to oversee the petition and eventual election. Williams reported that the recall group would have to snag close to 1,800 signatures to force a vote.
But Teller leaders were privately hoping that the clerk scenario wouldn’t come to that. According to Paul, a probable recall election would have cost the county about $41,000. “There were a lot of concerns about pulling the trigger on this, “said Paul.
However, he said the recall group figured that if Jamison stayed in office, the county may have to pay this amount of money in extra election costs and even fines. At the end of 2012, the county received reports that monies, held by the clerk’s office, which was supposed to be dispersed to a number of entities, such as Colorado Department of Revenue, didn’t happen on time. “It didn’t need to be this chaotic,” said Paul, who admits he is somewhat flabbergasted over the entire controversy. Prior to her stint as clerk, the board chairman said he worked with Jamison with several local boards, such as Pikes Peak Rotary Club.
Jamison, who had previous credentials as a financial advisor, won the seat by a huge margin in the ‘Republican primary, trouncing Juliana Mestas, the deputy clerk at the time. She ran on a platform of increasing voter registration and leading efforts to monitor citizenship requirements. But when she assumed the seat in January 2011, she had to deal with a vastly new staff. Plus, the office was afflicted by much turnover.
Jamison, who has volunteered for a bevy of local organizations, still has her supporters. Some have accused the county commissioner of overkill and conducting a “witch hunt.”.:
But in an exit interview, shortly after he left office, Ignatius said the issue comes down to an “elected official hired to do a job.