County Leader Still Fuming Over Election Costs

by Rick Langenberg

 

 

 

 

Jim Ignatius, the predominant leader of the Teller County commissioners for much of the last decade, is still not done making public complaints against the clerk and recorder for squandering taxpayer money. Although taking a slightly softer tone than a previous meeting, Ignatius last week continued to lash out at Teller Count Clerk and Recorder Judith “JJ” Jamison for what he has referred to as outrageous election costs and is worried about repeat problems, especially for a county government that is counting its pennies. “How are we going to make it through the next year?” questioned Ignatius. He noted that if similar elections woes occur again, the county government will have to cut services. The commission leader didn’t take any direct pot shots at Jamison, but cited three reports in the last six months that have given the clerk a less than acceptable grade for the handling of her election-related duties. The most recent report, compiled by consultant Al Davidson, gave the Teller staff stellar reviews, but posed subtle concerns about the leadership abilities of Jamison, elected to the post in 2010.

More specifically, the report make reference to her failed efforts at recruiting and managing election judges, a situation Davidson claims was resurrected by a non-elections employee. Davidson, who was hired to oversee the Nov. 6 election, also stated that he had little contact with Jamison, “so whatever issues were there before probably remain.” He also indicated a slight concern over the clerk allowing her employees to handle the job of managing future elections. In a previous interview, Ignatius concluded that the clerk erred in her main assigned duties for the presidential election, even after her agency was basically put on probation by the state for problems that occurred in their handling of the June 26 primaries. “You think she would have gotten it right this time,” said the commission chairman. “This is a very sad state of affairs. Who is she going to blame next?” At the same time, he had nothing but praise for her staff. “They pulled it off,” said Ignatius, who was extremely complimentary of agency employees Stephanie Fisher and Krystal Brown. “It’s very frustrating on our part,” added Ignatius at last week’s meeting, which Jamison didn’t attend. In fact, the commission leader estimated Teller’s costs for running the 2012 elections at $263,000, which surpassed preliminary budgeted monies by close to $200,000.

In order to make up the difference and balance the 2012 budget, the county government had to use operational monies from certain late fees and surcharge penalties the clerk and recorder agency collects over a multi-year period, and won’t be able to invest as much money into new equipment. However, if the county incurs more election-related problems, it could find itself in financial trouble, according to Teller officials. Ignatius made his new round of comments regarding the Jamison situation during the commissioners’ Dec. 6 meeting to clarify his position. Some residents privately have wondered why he took such a strong public stand against another elected official from the same party. Both Ignatius and Jamison are leaders of the Teller GOP Party and both have been involved with a number of civic groups. In the past, Ignatius has been accused by some critics of grandstanding and using certain commission meetings as his own personal forum.

Two years ago, Ignatius got into a heated duel with former Sheriff Kevin Dougherty. This fight centered on residency issues, prompted by the fact that the former sheriff moved to Colorado Springs. This fight resulted in Dougherty stepping down several months prior to his official departure date, but featured several commission meetings when Ignatius took strong verbal punches at the former sheriff. But last week, Ignatius defended his criticism of certain elected officials, including Jamison. He said the commissioners had limited opportunities to get the word out and faced pressure from the public to be transparent as possible. He said one of the main responsibilities of the board hinges on serving as guardians of the county’s tax dollars. “We got taken to the woodshed,” said Ignatius, in reference to the commissioners’ former fight with Dougherty. He said the commissioners tried to handle that situation internally and it didn’t work out. As a result, Ignatius stated they wanted to be more upfront with their concerns regarding the Teller election situation. Jamison, though, has refused to publicly comment on the situation.

In a previous letter to the media, she placed much of the blame on the fact that the agency’s main elections supervisor left her position, shortly before last summer’s primaries, which created major challenges. She also has conceded that the office has a number of new employees and that employees are still in a training mode when it comes to elections. Some of her supporters say she is being unfairly targeted. Also, with an initial reading of the Davidson report, it could be argued that the recent election report basically gave Teller a good grade regarding the outcome of the election. Ignatius, however, received a pat on the back by fellow commissioners Bill Buckhanan and Dave Paul for going public with his concerns. “We should be transparent,” said Buckhanan. “This is our means of explaining what is going on.”