Something stinks in Archuleta County and it is not our famous geothermal hot springs.
Unfortunately, the smell comes from multiple sources.
We’ve never spent so much time on the phone as we have lately, listening to people concerned about the smell emanating from our local elected officials and the processes they have in place.
More than one foul odor has come from the hiring process of the next Archuleta County administrator.
When a county commissioner’s former campaign manager’s husband is a finalist for county administrator and the commissioner doesn’t recuse himself from the interviews and decisions, the integrity behind the process is questionable.
Things smell worse when that finalist’s spouse has their hands in the hiring process as an employee of Archuleta County.
County leadership shouldn’t give the appearance of impropriety in the hiring process, but they’ve done just that. They should have made it impossible for someone to accuse the candidate or the spouse of any appearance of wrongdoing in the process.
It isn’t fair to a finalist for the position to not be given a fair opportunity to be hired based on the experience and qualifications that they bring to the table.
Another thing that emits a foul odor is another county administrator finalist candidate who is in the position of being the direct supervisor of a second commissioner’s spouse.
That commissioner did not recuse himself from the interview process, either.
Things start stinking even more when that candidate proposes an approximate raise in the amount of $4.50 per hour for the commissioner’s spouse during budget meetings with all three commissioners sitting at the table.
Things really started to reek when the commissioner didn’t recuse himself from the budget presentation and remained seated at the table while the county administrator finalist/commissioner’s spouse’s supervisor discussed the proposed pay increase.
We recommend that when the commissioners approve the budget, they consider this section of the budget independently of the rest of the county’s departments in order for the commissioner to recuse himself.
These actions, or nonactions, are wrong.
The playing field should be level for each finalist for the county administrator position to ensure a fair process.
The stink isn’t just coming from the county administration building on Lewis Street.
Across the street at the school district, you have a superintendent whose spouse was hired to work for the district to fill a newly created position.
Just because the board of education rubber-stamped that hiring or even if the spouse is qualified for the job, it doesn’t make it smell any better.
You can travel down Hot Springs Boulevard to town hall and you get a scent of impropriety there, too.
It smells somewhat fishy when a town council member promotes a project in a public meeting and then suddenly recuses themself claiming to realize the project the council will be voting on would financially benefit their spouse because the spouse has a contract for the project.
You cannot remove the influence that council member made by advocating for the project prior to recusing themself.
Another thing that smells is when you have two council members who are involved with the vacation rental market and they do not recuse themselves from voting on rules and regulations pertaining to their income-making endeavors. The smell permeates every conversation and vote they make.
One reader commented: “The good ole boy club continues.”
The culture of our local officials is not going to change overnight.
There is a clear lack of trust in some of the leadership of our community. It appears that some of our leaders do not concern themselves when it comes to public perception and perceived or real conflicts of interest.
Yes, Pagosa Springs is still a small town and conflicts of interest will always surface; however, recusing yourself from any matter that appears to be questionable will help to clear the air. We expect our local leaders to do the right thing.
We appreciate the feedback from our readers who have engaged with us these past few weeks.
It is time to infuse some fresh air and ethics into the practices of our leaders and public bodies.
Terri Lynn Oldham House