by Rick Langenberg:
The final election report for Teller County is receiving mixed reviews, with the outgoing head commission leader expressing big concerns regarding the competency of Clerk and Recorder Judith “JJ” Jamison and whether local taxpayers are getting the shaft.
However, on the other side of the election spectrum, some experts say it’s hard to argue with success and the fact that the Nov. 6 presidential contest in Teller resulted in “no pervasive equipment or personnel issues” and no major complaints. In any case, the future of elections in Teller County may become fodder for debate among the new commissioners and may retrigger discussion over a previous plan to turn the clerk slot into an appointed position. “This is a sad state of affairs,” blasted Jim Ignatius, the chairman of the Teller County commissioners, in an interview Monday morning. “This blame game (with the current clerk) has got to end. My big concern is whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth with their current clerk and recorder. The county just can’t afford these costs.”
“This has cost the taxpayers of Teller County $225,000 for this year’s election, which is approximately $143,000 more than it should have and the bills are still coming in. I am very disappointed,” added the board chairman, who made his views public during last week’s regular meeting of the commissioners.
At the same time, Ignatius lauded the work of the agency’s staff and many county employees, who he believes rescued the election process from plunging into troubled waters. “I have mixed feelings,” admitted Ignatius. “I am extremely proud of the accuracy and outcome of the election, especially the staff we hired. Overall, things turned out pretty well thanks to the staff.” The board chairman was commenting on a three-page report compiled by Al Davidson, a well-known consultant who was hired on a temporary basis to oversee the Nov. 6 presidential election and to help train the clerk and recorder staff. For the most part, the report lauded the staff and the cooperation from a bevy of agencies. Basically, it gave the Teller staff high marks for the way the election was handled and maintained that the county had adequate resources. But in the report, Davidson admitted he had little contact with Jamison and that previous issues she had may resurface again.
And in a slight jab at Jamison, Davidson noted that the clerk fell short in one of her main assigned duties for the Nov. 6 presidential contest: picking and managing election judges. “Perhaps the single biggest contribution by a non-elections staff member was that of Dee Bordage (who works as an administrative assistant with the county commissioners) who accepted the responsibility to resurrect a totally failed effort to recruit and manage election judges. She, along with Kathy Davidson pulled this important effort from certain failure to a success that manifested itself on election day,” said Davidson in his report. And despite these problems, the election consultant waved a big victory flag regarding the handling of Nov. 6 vote, which resulted in the casting of 12,234 votes, the far majority of which were done prior to election day.
However, Ignatius took a less diplomatic stand in assessing the Teller election situation. He maintains that Jamison fell short in several key areas, namely the handling and managing of the election judges and in doing needed election- day preparation work. “It was a complete disaster,” said the commissioner in regards to the responsibilities assigned to Jamison by the election consultant. Jamison couldn’t be reached for comment regarding the board chairman’s latest charges.
But in previous comments and during a public meeting last summer attended by Colorado Secretary Of State Scott Gessler, Jamison asserted that, “The buck stops with me.” She took full responsibility for concerns that developed by state officials and election observers regarding the conducting of the June 26 primary elections in Teller County. At that time, her office received a scrutinizing report by Gessler, which forced Teller County to turn over the management of the Nov. 6 general election to Al Davidson, the former deputy clerk of elections for Arapahoe County. Jamison at this earlier meeting noted that most of the concerns of the state had already been addressed.
“This office has worked hard to raise the level of service to Teller County citizens. My staff has been encouraging and supportive and they have risen to embrace new skills and disciplines,” said Jamison. “We are using this as an opportunity to develop, grow and move forward…You can be assured it will be a team effort.”
In a subsequent letter to the local media, Jamison also maintained that she had no plans to step down and felt blindsided by the attacks against her office by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. She also cited problems with personnel changes in her office, including the departure of the head elections supervisor shortly before the primary. Some of her supporters say she is being unfairly targeted and cite the problems of a complex office featuring many new employees. Jamison won the seat during the GOP Republican primary in 2010 by a wide margin. But when she assumed the position several months later, many long-time employees of the clerk and recorder’s office, were no longer employed there. Prior to Jamison, the clerk’s office was manned by Patricia Crowson for eight years, who also worked as the deputy clerk prior to getting elected.
Ignatius, who will be stepping down in January, said his main concern deals with the future of elections in Teller County and the costs the government will have to absorb. He believes that if the county incurs future election-related problems like those of 2012, local citizens will get the short end of the stick regarding needed services. And while heavily criticizing the work of Jamison, Ignatius had nothing but praise for agency employees Kristal Brown and Stephanie Fisher.
This isn’t the first time Ignatius has had difference with other Teller head elected leaders. In 2010, Ignatius had a heated duel with former Sheriff Kevin Dougherty over residency issues. This resulted in Dougherty stepping down and current Sheriff Mike Ensminger assuming the reins of the county’s head law enforcement post much earlier than anticipated.