Thomas report made public, riles up DougCo commissioners

Mike McKibbin

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L-R: Douglas County commissioners George Teal, Lora Thomas and Abe Laydon. |Douglas County

By Mike McKibbin/NewsBreak Denver | Aug. 9, 2022

[DOUGLAS COUNTY, COLO.] — The Douglas County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the release of a redacted version of their 12-page, $17,000 investigation into some actions by Commissioner Lora Thomas.

During a later meeting, Commissioner George Teal asked the report be given to the county sheriff's department and 18th Judicial District Attorney's office for consideration in possible punitive actions against Thomas.

After another closed session to discuss the investigation, Teal and fellow Commissioner Abe Laydon talked about removing Thomas from the boards and commissions she serves on as a punitive measure.

And the three Republicans once again argued — often interrupting and talking over one another — about the report's findings.

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Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon. |Douglas County

Release stance reversed, Thomas could lose appointed seats

Laydon and Teal initially opposed releasing the report to the public. However, they changed their stance after Thomas allegedly provided a copy of the information to a CBS4 reporter. That lead them to ask for a second investigation.

"We have nothing to hide and we are certainly pleased to release a redacted copy of the investigation correspondence, provided that it does not reveal specific names of individuals that work at the county," Laydon said.

Teal suggested a letter go to all boards and commissions the county deals with, including those Thomas is on, "that we have had a breach of privilege. A breach of trust on the board by Commissioner Thomas and inform them that that is the case."

"And then I do think we should pursue some punitive options," he continued. "Probably first and foremost considering removing Commissioner Thomas from the various boards and commissions she is currently assigned to."

Teal stated he did not think any of the activities included in the investigation were related to Thomas' official duties as a commissioner.

When Thomas then asked why he and Laydon sought the investigation, Teal said she had breached the board's trust and exceeded her authority as chair. That led to her removal as chair earlier this year.

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Douglas County Commissioner Lora Thomas. |Douglas County

"And then of course the real reason for the investigation, in my mind, was because we received input from a departing employee that believed you had created a hostile workplace," Teal responded.

Laydon said the report was "very clear" that many county employees felt they would be retaliated against if they spoke out.

"But I'll just tell you based on my personal experience, this is the most hostile person I've ever encountered," Laydon said. "I have no patience for it so I don't clear her on any level in that regard."

The report noted that many county employees feared retaliation for participating in the investigation. However, it found Thomas had not created a hostile workplace.

Thomas repeated her view that the investigation was a political witch hunt by Laydon and Teal.

"So I was cleared. I was exonerated in that 12-page report. I have not done anything illegal. What I have done is not gone along with you two," Thomas said.

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Douglas County Commissioner George Teal. |Douglas County

Thomas criticized for lack of attention, called 'incredibly divisive'

Teal criticized Thomas for not paying attention during meetings.

"You spend all your time and all of our meetings on your phone," he said." You were sitting there, obviously reading text while we're talking. This is something that always goes on."

"I would be very interested in hearing a personal commitment to pay attention," Teal continued. "Or to stop playing the 'somebody has to lose in order for you to win' game. Without that, I'm interested in pursuing punitive action toward an outside authority that can actually identify misconduct."

Laydon called Thomas "incredibly divisive and hard to work with."

"To the point where it's not just standard hard to work with, it is highly hostile," he said, "and I'm not gonna stand here and continue to allow that horribly divisive behavior to continue. It's certainly not representing this board."

"You know, you're really good at putting out a lot of words but not a lot of evidence to support what you say," Thomas responded.

"Your goal is to manufacture outrage, run to the media instead of paying attention to our meetings and providing information that has specific information about county employees for your benefit," Laydon said. "Once again, you clearly have not heard or addressed or taken responsibility for any of this behavior."

After Laydon said he was ready to adjourn the meeting, Thomas responded.

"OK, I know you've been trying to silence me for a long time," she said.

"Nobody is silencing you. You're not a victim. You run out and say whatever you want all the time," Laydon said.

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