Elections, Legal, Sherrie Peif, Weld County

Weld County Clerk candidate’s employment files depict problems behind the scenes

GREELEY — A candidate for Weld County Clerk and Recorder spent her entire 15-year career in the motor vehicle’s office as one of the top customer service clerks the county employed.

Elisa Kunkel

Elisa Kunkel’s employment record is full of letters from Weld residents thanking her for her pleasant and knowledgeable service.

“Elisa shows a high degree of respect for customers through her courtesy and sensitivity. She is very skillful at resolving difficult or emotional customer situations,” her evaluation from June 2008 reads. “She often goes out of her way to make sure commitments are met and she responds with a strong sense of urgency when servicing customers. Elisa solicits and uses customer feedback to deliver better service.”

Comments like that are the norm throughout Kunkel’s employment.

However, for the same 15-year span, there are also documented evaluations and writes ups for poor behavior behind the scenes, including attitude issues, inability to get along with coworkers, attendance problems, violations of county policies involving phone and email use, violations of state licensing protocols, insubordination and intimidating other employees.

Supervisors made notes that she needed to correct the behavior or face disciplinary actions up to and including termination. However, former clerk and current Weld County Commissioner Chairman Steve Moreno never carried through with any of those actions.

Carly Koppes

It wasn’t until 2016, after Carly Koppes took office, that Kunkel was eventually demoted. Kunkel appealed to a grievance board, which upheld the demotion, and despite a brief filed by Frank Haug, assistant Weld County attorney, recommending the Board of Commissioners uphold the grievance board, three commissioners — Mike Freeman, Barb Kirkmeyer and Julie Cozad — overturned the grievance board.

Haug’s brief says that after taking office in 2015, Koppes established new policies and responsibilities for clerk and recorder employees and explained expectations for the “Tech IVs,” of which Kunkel was one.

In the brief, he said Kunkel’s demotion should have been upheld for several reasons:

  • “Her demotion was based on several instances of documented and verified poor behavior over a period of several months.”
  • “As a Tech IV, she was to be a role model and guide for new employees. Instead, she made them feel intimidated and isolated.”
  • “Ms. Kunkel should have taken the initiative to resolve what was clearly a negative influence on her team. The fact that she continues to argue that it wasn’t her responsibility to resolve her interpersonal issues but someone higher up, shows that she was not fit to be a leader in the office.”

Commissioners noted that they believe Koppes had no authority to set her own policies for her employees in the clerk’s office and accused Koppes of overstepping her authority to reprimand her employees in her office.

Sean Conway, Koppes’ uncle, and Moreno recused themselves from the decision.

Although the County Charter allows an employment appeal to the board, it was the first time in at least 30 years that the commissioners interfered with the employment decisions of another elected official.  Kunkel was eventually transferred to the planning department to separate her from Koppes.

After winning her appeal, Kunkel accused Koppes of creating the poor work environment, long wait times, low employee morale and was instrumental in getting the Weld County Council, a county oversight board, to order a performance audit on the Clerk and Recorder’s office based on her observations.

One of those councilmen, Gene Stille, who has been openly critical of Koppes and continually raised questions of impropriety against other councilmembers, wrote a letter of recommendation for Kunkel during her grievance process. Stille never disclosed his involvement in Kunkel’s appeal to the council or the public, and he never recused himself from discussions about the clerk’s office.

The audit did find numerous issues in the clerk’s office; however, auditors included information collected beginning a year prior to Koppes being elected in their review. Long wait times predating Koppes’ term as Clerk and Recorder is documented in a story in The Greeley Tribune where Koppes promised to reduce those times if elected.  Kunkel’s employment files point to the dysfunction and low morale in the office also predating Koppes’ election.

Complete Colorado requested Kunkel’s file after she filed a lawsuit and announced her campaign against Koppes, arguing the file was a matter of public interest because Kunkel has repeatedly said she had a spotless career with the county. The Greeley Tribune also subsequently requested the file, and the county asked a judge to determine if it was an open record. Judicial Court Judge Marcello Kopcow ruled it was a matter of public interest, among several other findings, and released the vast majority of the file.

After receiving the files, Complete Colorado noticed five years of information was missing, again, both Complete Colorado and the Tribune requested the remaining years. Three of the years were turned over; however, county officials said they do not have reviews for Kunkel for two of the missing years.

Because the files are extensive, rather than report on the files at length, Complete Colorado linked to the documents for the public to read on its own. Complete Colorado has already released Koppes’ employment files, documenting her job performance prior to her election as clerk and recorder, she had no disciplinary actions.

All of Kunkel’s files and disciplinary actions can be found by clicking on the following associated links:

2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008; 2009; 2010; 2011; 2012 — The county did not have an evaluation for 2012, 2013; 2014 — Salary change only. The county did not have an evaluation for 2014; 2015; 2016; 2017; Documents for Grievance Board Hearing; Documents for Board of Commissioners Appeal.

 

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