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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Insanity in five easy lessons

1) Our staff asks commissioners to identify personal and county business long-distance calls made from our desk phones. Fortunately, I keep a phone log and could track each call as government business. The first month, there were four calls totaling 63 cents. The latest amount was five calls totaling 26 cents. Some calls were only two cents each.Think. The staff has to print out the phone bill, mark it up, and deliver it to each commissioner. Commissioners then have to review their records regarding a two-cent call a month or two ago. If they owed a dime, they would have to write a check or get a cash receipt from the staff, who would then have to deliver the dime to the finance department and get a receipt. It would then be recorded and deposited. How much does that process cost? Meanwhile, the board approves twice weekly on the “consent calendar” (items passed without question unless specifically challenged) many contracts and giveaways of millions of dollars.I showed our county administrator the absurdity of the county phone policy. We will now have to review bills only if they exceed $25 a month. Since commissioners also have cell phones with unlimited free long-distance, there is no fear of abuse.2) On May 16, we were asked to approve another retroactive contract. There have been dozens since our January 11 inauguration. No one had ever questioned them before. I did and will, every time. I asked the staffer requesting approval if the county had suspended its obligations since the old contract expired in March. She said no, she “assumed” it would be approved and so the unelected staff treated this non-contract as a contract.A colleague said it was no big deal, since the money was there to spend. I disagree. Only the elected board can enter into this contract. What the staff did violated a county resolution, as well as the constitutional doctrines of separation of powers, checks and balances, and the legislative power of the purse. These aspects of limited government stretch back to 1215 – to a document known as the Magna Carta. King John ceded to English freemen valuable rights to check his previously absolute monarchy. I will not cede them back to a bureaucrat.Like all the prior retroactive contracts, it passed 4 to 1. Guess who the one was.3) Governments must advertise certain actions and public hearings in a local newspaper. State law does not usually specify which paper. The county picks the cheapest paper, even though it may have a readership less than 1 percent of county residents. When a land use issue in Falcon arose months ago, the public hearing ad was printed in a paper in Fountain. What a waste of money! That ad is not only read by very few people, but by the wrong people – those not interested in Falcon area construction. Do you still wonder why construction planning meetings are so poorly attended? The county’s excuse is that the Gazette is too costly. I then suggested we pick from the second tier of newspapers reaching the area involved– the New Falcon Herald, the Ranchland News, or the Black Forest News. That idea was also rebuffed. Why not provide a notice that means something? Instead, we again subsidize developers, holding their ad costs down while keeping the public in the dark and violating the intent of the law. Whom are we working for, anyway?4) The county does not know what properties it owns. Read that again, slowly.Hard to believe? Yes. Depressing? Damn right! People rightly wonder whether they elected a County Commission or the Keystone Kops. You might think a computer search would provide a list. Nope. The county owns land as “El Paso County,” “County of El Paso,” “Board of County Commissioners,” “Board of El Paso County Commissioners,” “El Paso County Parks,” etc. etc. etc. I have asked that county staff review a complete property printout, line by line, to select all county property. Then change the title of all ownership to “El Paso County,” and use that name for all future acquisitions. We should then sell our surplus land at public auction. We can notify adjacent property owners who may want a 10-foot X 100-foot sliver to widen their parcel. We can end county liability for drainage problems. We can put property back on the tax rolls. The county went through this process about six years ago, and sold some properties. This needs to be an ongoing project. Any responsible organization must manage its assets.5) Hold onto your hat! The same ineptitude applies to county resolutions. There is NO codebook listing county resolutions, which have the force of law. In the past 140 years or so, this county has issued tens of thousands of resolutions. Many are ceremonial (National Pickle Week), many are time-limited (the 1922 budget), but some continue to have a binding legal effect. All are kept in dusty boxes or in microfile cases, where YOU can’t find them! We can’t have the “rule of law” unless government tells us what the law is, and lets us read it!The county must assign someone to skim ALL the resolutions and weed out the obsolete or non-binding ones. Those with continuing legal effect must be put in one book, and ideally on the county’s Web page. Copies must go to the law library. Remaining (unpublished) resolutions should be of no legal effect. The state has its Colorado Revised Statutes, the city has its City Code, the federal government has its United States Code. County laws are on inaccessible yellowing papers in rented warehouses, or on tiny pieces of plastic. And they expect us to take them seriously?Contact me at (719) 520-6412, by email at, or by writing me at 27 E. Vermijo Ave. Colo. Spgs. CO 80903.For liberty,DOUGLAS BRUCEYOUR county commissioner

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