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Douglas County state legislators urge cancellation of Tri-County Health contract over lock-down order

CASTLE ROCK—The State Legislative Delegation of Douglas County (SLDDC) on Wednesday sent a letter to the Douglas County Commissioners urging them to “terminate whatever contract exists”  between Douglas County and the Tri-County Health Department (THCD), which jointly serves as the public health agency for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

Six Republican state lawmakers representing the county signed the letter saying, “It is our understanding that at least two of you opposed” the three county-wide “shelter in place” order issued by the TCHD.

TCHD joined Boulder County Public Health and Jefferson County Public Health in issuing stay-at-home public health orders in their counties on Wednesday, effective March 26 at 8:00 a.m. until April 17 at 11:59 p.m.

The orders included heavy penalties of up to $5,000 and 18 months in county jail.

The SLDDC letter says, “It is our understanding that at least two of you opposed this heavy-handed application of governmental power…We consider it unacceptable that a contracted health agency could somehow ignore the will of a majority of our elected and accountable Douglas County Commissioners.”  The Douglas County Commission is comprised of three elected members.

County health departments have the authority to issue such orders, but it is unclear how accountable they are to county elected officials where a joint agency such as TCHD is involved.

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Presumably commissioners in a county can countermand its health department orders since health department authority is a matter of county ordinances, but it’s not clear how that would work in a joint organization like the TCHD.

The letter says “Moving forward, we urge you to align Douglas County with either El Paso County Health or to create a new health agency that might align with the pending new Judicial district.”

The letter refers to a bill before the state legislature (now in recess due to the COVID19 coronavirus) that would create a new  23rd Judicial District comprised of Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties by splitting off Arapahoe County as the existing 18th Judicial District.

State Senators Chris Holbert, the Senate Minority Leader, R-Parker and Jim Smallwood, R-Parker, who is currently self-isolating at his second home in California until March 30 after testing positive for the virus, and Representatives Kim Ransom, R-Douglas County, Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, Assistant Minority Leader Keven Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch and Mark Baisely, R-Roxborogh Park signed the letter.

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