Former commissioners get a convenient case of amnesia |

Former commissioners get a convenient case of amnesia

Jim Hoffman
Free Press Weekly Opinion Columnist

Well, we’ve said it more than once, and we will say it again!

All those fiscally conservative politicians love TABOR. They love it at every applause line opportunity, they love it at every Tea Party gathering, they love it if they do not have to factor their sales taxes into the equation, and they love it every election cycle.

But … they hate it every time they collect more taxes and need to refund some. And, they hate it when they are caught plotting against the citizens to keep more cash in the cookie jar than to which they are entitled.

It seems our previous Mesa County Commissioners decided to pretend they did not collect sales taxes. By doing so, they did not exceed TABOR limits and did not have to bother with giving taxpayers refunds to which we were entitled. While two of the three commissioners were Tea Party darlings who swore a thousand oaths to never overtax the poor taxpayers, it is now claimed they did exactly that.

Janet Rowland who likely harbors ambitions for future political office swears now it was not of her doing, but the evil machinations of some underling. Craig Meis, who probably would love another part-time job paying $70K a year, suffers from amnesia on any specifics of a meeting or meetings that created the policy. Steve Acquafresca who is term-limited and need not face the electors again is very clear that he, Rowland and Meis were all unanimous in their support of the decision to exclude sales taxes from TABOR calculations. His recollection is consistent with several high-ranking county employees and former employees.

It is necessary for Rowland to distance herself from any such policy as support for such would greatly erode her credibility with the base of her support. If it’s true that she did work with and agree with county administrators and fellow commissioners to initiate such a scheme, it would be a repudiation of her previously clearly stated positions. Meis may covet some future office and would be hindered by support for the policy, but he is not likely to be returned to office by Mesa County voters in any capacity. Anything that clearly tied either to this recently revealed policy would prove embarrassing at the very minimum. At most, it would spell the end of any political aspirations that would require the support of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party.

It now remains to be seen how current Commissioners Pugliese, Justman and Acquafresca will resolve this heresy against local political orthodoxy. The original decision was based upon a legal opinion and it is possible that it will be decided the opinion is correct; the commissioners will opt to continue on this path and expose the county to potentially large legal expenses defending themselves — money that is ours. Also, there will be a significant decrease in property tax collections based on the most recent assessment.

There may be some hard choices ahead. Will the commissioners tighten their belts and reduce spending, or will they abandon their hyperbole and rhetoric and decide to increase taxes and retain taxes received in excess of TABOR limits? A test of principles may be at hand.


Someone once asked me my personal opinion of Bill Pitts, our now ex-mayor.

My response was: “He is a crusty, opinionated old coot with whom I seldom agree. I really kinda like him,” or words to that general effect. He and I disagreed on many points: The Avalon project, the handling of the Brady Trucking issue, White Hall, and the centralized GVT/Greyhound Bus Station among them. Those disagreements were mentioned within this column on occasion.

Never once did Pitts allow our disagreements to interfere with an otherwise friendly acquaintance. He frequently found humor in our varying viewpoints. While “thick skinned” may not be an adjective with which I would describe him, he was. He never took himself too seriously and accepted criticism with good grace. That is an attribute I fear may be missing from our new council.

Jim Hoffman is a local Realtor and investor who, when not working, loves skiing, camping and fishing (in season). He may be reached at

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