Monday, July 9

Wagner resigns!

I don't see anything about this on the Coloradoan or Reporter-Herald sites, so I guess we'll break the news that Larimer County Commissioner Karen Wagner announced her resignation this morning, because of "escalating harassment and verbal abuse from Commissioner Glenn Gibson, who is responsible for the hostile workplace that impairs my physical health and my need to function in a rational environment." The Chronicle newsroom received this missive at 8:12 am:

July 9, 2007

Dear Citizens of Larimer County,

When I was sworn in as District 2 Commissioner in January 2005, I had high hopes and great expectations for serving the people of Larimer County. Therefore, it is with tremendous disappointment that I announce my resignation from the Board of County Commissioners, effective immediately.

This action is directly tied to a pattern of escalating harassment and verbal abuse from Commissioner Glenn Gibson, who is responsible for the hostile workplace that impairs my physical health and my need to function in a rational environment. Commissioner Kathay Rennels has had numerous opportunities to intervene, but by total inaction, has chosen to tacitly condone his embarrassing and unprofessional conduct. Events reached their height on June 26th, when Gibson launched two assaults of irrational histrionics not worthy of a county commissioner.

Since the events of that day, I have struggled to make a decision that is in the best interests of those I was elected to serve. Unfortunately, I cannot ignore aggravated health issues, nor can I effectively serve the citizens of Larimer County in the hostile environment Gibson has created.

Starting soon after I took office, facilitation sessions and extensive discussions have focused on Gibson’s questionable behavior with regard to other board members, other elected officials, staff and the public. Despite those efforts, the commonly held opinion of those involved has been that this commissioner will not modify his behavior, because he doesn’t recognize it as a problem.

Larimer County is a great organization, with fantastic and committed employees who do outstanding work for the betterment of our county. From the county manager on down, county employees have been a pleasure to work with. When I ran for office in 2004, I firmly believed Larimer County was the perfect place to continue my dedication to public service.

As the minority member of the three-person Board of Commissioners, I was prepared to work with the two majority members to seek areas of consensus, where our combined efforts would best serve the residents of our county. However, Gibson’s menacing antagonism has made a rational and safe workplace impossible.

I am saddened that I have been unable to bring these issues to light, except through my own resignation. Hopefully, my action will ultimately result in a much improved work environment for the commissioner who replaces me, and for future elected officials.

Whoever is appointed to fill the District 2 position deserves our respect and support. If my resignation removes some of the roadblocks to their success, I will be satisfied.


Karen A. Wagner

As Wagner points out in her letter, she is the lone Dem on the county commission, since beating out ultra-conservative Tom Bender in 2004. Actually, she's the lone elected Dem in all of county government, meaning she's often played the role of voice in the wilderness on a number of policy decisions.

With her resignation, the Larimer County Democratic Party has ten days to form a vacancy committee and appoint a replacement. Wagner was to be up for re-election in November 2008, and had already expressed ambivalence toward a second term (see
"Republican Hopscotch" from the May 24 issue of the Chronicle). Potential Republican challengers for the District 2 seat, which represents the central part of the county including most of Fort Collins, are state Sen. Steve Johnson, former Fort Collins councilwoman Karen Weitkunat, and Sheriff Jim Alderden; all marquee names. A cynic might say Wagner's move--regardless of her reasoning--will give the appointed replacement a leg up and experience in a race next year that a Dem otherwise wouldn't have if Wagner chose not to run but served her full term.

We'll follow up on Wagner's claims, Gibson's and Rennels' responses, and stir up some replacement names throughout the day.

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