GarCo commish race
By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
The race for Garfield County Commissioner Dist. 2 appears to be heating up.
Political newcomer John Acha, a Democrat from New Castle who is challenging incumbent commissioner John Martin, got an endorsement last week from former long-time county manager Ed Green, who once was a close associate of incumbent commission chair John Martin but wrote that this year he will vote for Acha instead.
The endorsement came in a letter released by the Garfield County Democratic Party, but penned by Green, who recently returned from living in Florida for a short time and currently serves on the Rifle City Council.
The letter, 864 words long, was printed as an advertisement in one local paper after the editors concluded it went over their word-limit and thus could not be printed as a letter or an op-ed piece, according to Acha’s campaign manager, Ryan Gilman.
In the letter, Green wrote that Martin’s 20 years in office have “changed” Martin and turned him into “a professional politician, one who believes he is more important than the office he occupies.”
Martin did not respond to Sopris Sun attempts to interview him for comments about this article.
Green, who started working for the county in 1998, credited Martin with initially working to reorganize a county government that Green characterized as an amorphous unstructured organization “plagued by political influence, fear, intimidation of employees, and a severe lack of direction.”
With the support of the commissioners, Green wrote, county government was updated and reorganized over the next dozen years or more, but then reverted to its earlier status.
And, Green wrote, “what is remarkable is that the same commissioner (Martin), who led the charge for the transformation, was the one that led the current group of commissioners to return the organization to one driven by political influence and intimidation.”
In late 2011, Green wrote, the commissioners “stated that John Martin would personally handle real property sales and purchases,” rather than having that work done by staff.
The reason, according to Green, was Martin’s dissatisfaction with the way the county’s property sales were being handled and “had a definite view of the negotiation outcomes that was not necessarily in the best interest of county residents.”
Green accused Martin and the other commissioners of spending “millions of taxpayer dollars … unnecessarily … for properties of dubious value to the county,” implying that the money was spent for other, unexplained purposes.
Green also accused the commissioners of ordering Green to dismiss certain unnamed “members of my senior leadership team” for reasons Green felt were “clear-cut violations of federal law which would have resulted in indefensible EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) claims.”
Green wrote that he refused to comply with the commissioners’ directives, but that three of the four “targeted” employees “suffered adverse actions after I left,” including dismissal of two of them and demotion of a third, on grounds that Green did not specify.
Green also was critical of a decision by the commissioners that they “would heretofore (starting in 2011) be involved in day to day operations of the county,” creating “a very centralized organization focused on them and overseen by them,” a reversion that he resisted.
Green recounted that “about nine weeks later, I was sent out the door.”
At the letter’s conclusion, Green stated he would support Acha’s candidacy, explaining that he feels Acha is “the candidate who can help turn the county to a professionally run organization that is free of political influence and intimidation.”
Acha, 43, who is hoping to beat Martin, has lived in Garfield County since 2000, when he moved here to work with the Gallegos masonry company and soon opened up his own company, Action Estimating.
Martin, a native of Glenwood Springs, has been a county commissioner since 1996, having worked as a Glenwood Springs police officer for about 25 years before that.
Reached for comment about Green’s letter, Acha said, “That’s pretty much verbatim what I’ve been tossing out there” in his campaign, and that it was the reason he recently offered to promulgate a county law protecting “whistle-blowers” who attempt to reveal improper or illegal activities by county officials.
Acha said he has been approached by numerous county employees, past and present, who echoed Green’s concerns about the current county administration, but who were afraid to speak out.
“I wouldn’t have offered the whistleblower protection law if I didn’t know it was true,” he said of Green’s charges.
Published in The Sopris Sun on October 13, 2016.