GREELEY — A Weld County resident fed up with a lack of transparency by the Board of Weld County Commissioners has started a Go Fund Me page in hopes of raising $60,000 to start his own live streaming channel.
Bill Gillard, 71, is no stranger to Weld County. He lived in Greeley from 2001 to 2007 and ran for both Greeley City Council and Mayor of Greeley. He moved to the San Francisco area in 2008 to become the project manager on an expansion to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system.
Gillard moved back to Greeley in early 2018 and immediately started watchdogging the commissioners when he found out about a training trip to Breckenridge for Weld employees and others, a training he said was more like a vacation. The commissioners spent $30,000 more than planned for the emergency management training that was originally budgeted at $15,000.
“And I found out that commissioners (Barbara) Kirkmeyer and (Steve) Moreno left early,” Gillard told Complete Colorado by phone on Wednesday. “It was a waste of taxpayer money.”
Reclassification of Weld County Road 29 and commissioner Mike Freeman’s role in that, an ethics complaint against Commissioner Julie Cozad that Weld voters eventually paid more than $12,000 in legal fees for, Martin Marietta zoning issues, and other use by special review failures by the board also led to his decision, he said.
“There is a lot going on in the work sessions,” he said. The meetings “need to be up on website for the public to watchdog the commissioners.”
His reasons behind the effort stem from the commissioner’s refusal to live stream their meetings themselves, he said.
“I asked the county commissioners, and I asked the Weld County Council to stream them, and I just get a blank face. They looked at me as though I was stupid,” Gillard said. “I’ve been waiting and waiting to do it for a while. We don’t have the recordings we need, and I want to have them available to the public.”
Gillard also plans to live stream all Weld County Council meetings, he said.
The Weld County Council, which meets once a month at night, is a governing body unique to Weld County. It oversees the commissioners by acting as a liaison between the public and commissioners when needed, setting elected officials salaries, and appointing replacements to vacant commissioner seats, among other things.
In 2017, Weld commissioners asked voters to disband the council and remove it from the Weld County Charter after the council rejected commissioner raises and ordered a performance audit. The measure failed.
Prior to the 2017 performance audit that recommended more transparency, only regular meetings were audio recorded. In 2018, commissioners began audio recording work sessions. However, access to the recordings are still by request and use outdated technology, with the audio embedded in PDF files. The audio must also be approved by commissioners for release.
Real time audio is not available for any Weld County meeting or work session. Gillard said the work sessions are the most important of all because they are the “behind the scenes” work of the commissioners.
Moreno, who is the current chairman of the commissioners, did not return a request for comment to Complete Colorado. However, Commissioner-Elect Scott James, who ran his campaign on transparency, said it shouldn’t have come to this.
“It shows just how much our citizens are demanding transparency,” James said. “I appreciate the efforts, but he shouldn’t have to do a Go Fund Me page. It should be a function of government.”
Gillard said Weld residents cannot attend the commissioners’ meetings because they are held during the day when most people work but being able to watch them in their homes at their own convenience will help keep the commissioners honest.
“It will act as the bulldog for the tax payers if there are problems,” Gillard said.
Gillard, who is considering challenging Mike Freeman for the District 1 seat in 2020, said he keeps his own schedule, so he will be able to attend all meetings. In addition to live streaming the meetings, he plans to post the meetings to a website where they will be available for free to anyone interested, he said.
“It’s a huge commitment,” he said. “But being semi-retired, I’m able to do it, and I’m much into fighting tor the taxpayers money. I don’t like the way commissioners are spending it.”
Gillard is asking for $60,000 but said he will begin recording as soon as he has enough to buy a camera.
The money will pay for all the equipment and an IT person to help him set up and keep the website up to date.
He added the idea is about more than just a recording of what is said. He said current personalities among commissioners is such that voters need to see body language, too.
“It’s all about transparency,” he said. “So that we can see what is going on in the work session and the interactions among the commissioners. You cannot get a lot from the audio. You can’t see the personal or physical reactions of people. It comes down to what is good for taxpayers.”
James said he has not spoken to the other commissioners about live streaming yet, so he doesn’t know why Weld is not already doing it, but he said it will be one of the first conversations he has once he’s sworn into office in January.
“I feel strongly about it,” James said. “The technology exists, and the citizens are demanding it. It shows how hard the county needs to work to do this. I’ll start asking right away why we aren’t doing this.”
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