2024 Election, Elections, Greeley, Original Report, Politics, Sherrie Peif, Weld County

Emails and audio show a Weld County commissioner hip deep in disputes, accusations

GREELEY — Emails and recordings obtained by Complete Colorado show a Weld County Commissioner who had her departmental oversight duties reassigned to other commissioners in mid-2023 lashing out not only at fellow commissioners but also county employees and private citizens, all during an election season where she has already left one race and entered another.

Since January, Commissioner Lori Saine, who represents the southern end of Weld County, has erupted in disputes during public meetings, threatened and filed complaints against county employees, filed a complaint against fellow Commissioner Perry Buck claiming Buck assaulted her, organized protests against the commission, and orchestrated an 11th-hour challenge against Buck for her open at-large commissioner seat.

Removed from duties

On July 19, 2023, the Weld Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted 4-1 to remove Saine from her management duties over the county’s departments of Finance and Administration, Health Services, Planning, Public Works and Human Services. Saine herself was the lone no vote.

Then Chairman of the BOCC, Mike Freeman, also sent a letter to Dacono’s Urban Renewal Authority Executive Director Jennifer Krieger recommending that Commissioner Perry Buck replace Saine on the agency’s board “effective immediately.”

The reasoning given behind the changes then, according to Yellowscene Magazine (YS), came from Freeman, who told YS: “The Board felt there was a need to make a change in department coordinator positions.”

The move came, however, just days after YS reported that Saine was involved in the firing of former Dacono City Manager A.J. Euckert. Saine represents District 3 of Weld County, which encompasses Dacono, where Saine also lives.

In January, after Kevin Ross was elected the new chairman of the BOCC, nothing changed as to board assignments. Saine was not given any coordinator roles and was allowed to remain liaison to only the Weld Faith Partnership Council, while other commissioners were loaded up with assignments.

Demotion sparks conflict

What did change, however, was Saine’s level of conflict with fellow commissioners — specifically Buck — after they demoted Saine’s closest ally at the county over complaints from his staff.

On the same day Ross was sworn in as the new chairman, the BOCC held a meeting concerning complaints filed against then Weld County Planning Director Tom Parko by three staff members to Human Resources Director Jill Scott.

Scott summarized the complaints, saying they centered around growing concerns from staff over the relationship Parko had with Saine. Among the complaints, Scott said, was the staff’s belief that Parko’s focus historically was on pleasing the entire BOCC rather than educating them with his professional opinion, but that focus had narrowed even further to pleasing only Saine’s directives.

Parko and Saine were then called out for what appeared to be collusion to go against county plans.

“According to staff, the public image of the department has become such that if you (push) hard enough you will get your way,” Scott says in the meeting, “even if it impacts the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Weld County.”

On the recordings sent to Complete Colorado as part of an open records request made in February, Saine tries to flip the script and accuse the other four commissioners of having meetings against Colorado’s open meetings laws.

“You are insinuating, and you need to stop that,” Buck can be heard saying to Saine. “Please just stop it.”

Prior to becoming county commissioners together in 2020, the two women were close friends as state legislators, often taking on other lawmakers with a one-two punch.

At the end of the meeting, the commissioners voted 4-1 to demote Parko, with Saine as the only no vote.

In February, just three weeks after Parko was demoted, Saine filed a complaint with Scott against Parko’s replacement, interim Planning Director Elizabeth Relford, calling her presentation at a work session, “unprofessional and unethical.”

In a separate open records request, Complete Colorado obtained copies of the emails between Saine, Scott, Ross and other commissioners about Relford. It was clear in the complaint that Saine was still upset over the demotion of Parko.

Relford “went after an employee indirectly who was accused by three employees, not 39 employees of being solely responsible for low morale,” Saine said in the complaint. The comment was in reference to Parko’s defense that the complaints against him were by “only three people.”

“If they were from 39 employees, then I’d be concerned,” Parko said in that meeting.

Saine continued to use her complaint against Relford to revisit Parko’s hearing.

“Those items regarding HR issues should have been addressed confidentially with HR. That employee didn’t have representation at the meeting, and no one heard the other side of the story,” Saine said, despite the fact that county employees do not have confidentiality as it pertains to disciplinary action, as previously ruled in an open records case brought against Weld County in 2018 by Complete Colorado and the The Greeley Tribune.

Saine also accused Relford of yelling at staff members, coercing businesses going through a planning process, and creating an unprofessional atmosphere, mirroring the complaints against Parko.

“I have started to receive a lot of citizen complaints about Ms. Relford’s leadership again in only two weeks,” Saine said.

In an email response, Ross said Saine’s complaint was “entirely inappropriate.”

“Your email is without merit and appears to be a personal vendetta by you against Ms. Relford,” Ross said. “As such, it will not be placed in her personal file, as you request. … To attack her personally, as you did in in your email, is inappropriate and will not be tolerated by the Board.”

In, yet another, separate open records request, Complete Colorado obtained the audio of the presentation by Relford and could not find any instance supporting Saine’s accusations against Relford.

Assault accusations

Then in March, after two resolutions Saine brought to the board that were rejected by the other commissioners, Saine doubled-down and began accusing other commissioners of bullying and assaulting her — all unsubstantiated.

After her last resolution was rejected, Saine organized protests at county meetings that included citizens duct taping their mouths shut in response to the BOCC shutting down public comment on items not on the agenda.

Saine’s accusations were first against Buck, who is also running for re-election. Saine started publicly telling constituents that Buck “assaulted” her in December.

In a fourth and final open records request, Complete Colorado obtained copies of statements filed by Buck and the BOCC’s secretary, Karla Ford about the incident that took place outside Buck’s office on Dec. 5, 2023.

Buck said Saine was doing what she does best. “I would call it bullying,” Buck wrote. “This situation is typical of what she likes to do to me.”

According to Buck’s statement she was waiting for a department head to come to her office for an evaluation when Saine demanded she be included in the evaluation because the director was formally under Saine until her duties were revoked. Buck declined the request.

Buck said Saine refused to leave her office, arguing with Buck about her right to be in the evaluation, so when Buck heard the employee approach, she directed him to another office and began to follow him.

“Lori was behind (the employee), but I was able to get my arm behind (him) and shut the door,” Buck said in her statement. “After the evaluation … Lori was still sitting in my office (uninvited-bullying).”

Ford, who said the event took place in front of her, corroborated Buck’s statement.

“Commissioner Buck went behind (the employee) and was closing the door behind her and Commissioner Saine aggressively pushed the door towards (sic) Commissioner Buck to get into the office,” Ford wrote.

In the time since, Saine has announced that Buck assaulted her at multiple public gatherings, including a town hall where she refused to sit next to Buck out of “fear.”

Saine is also using her claims to fund raise. In an campaign email sent April 3 with the subject “I am not safe at work,” Saine claims she is not allowed in briefings, among other accusations.

“Doors are slammed in my face when I want to ask questions,” she said in the email. “I have been forcibly shoved physically out of office spaces. I … told (HR) I would start recording to protect myself and that I felt like I needed a body cam at all times because of the ongoing verbal and physical harassment from three commissioners in particular.”

Saine also used her complaint against Relford to accuse other board members of the same.

“As I mentioned to you after December,” Saine wrote, “I don’t feel safe in this office environment after being shoved by Commissioner Buck and subsequently have doors slammed in my face by Commissioner Ross. … I now feel like I need to wear a body camera at all times to capture what is going on in the physical environment and to protect me and staff from accusations.”

Saine’s actions have resulted in the BOCC coming up with a rules of conduct for board members. Additionally, some close to the county who asked to remain anonymous say commissioners are also considering censuring Saine.

Conflict spreads

However, it isn’t just commissioners that Saine is having issues with.

On Feb. 3, Eaton Mayor Scott Moser called on Saine to resign in a letter the BOCC. Moser told the BOCC he was filing a complaint with the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission against Saine. Complete Colorado could not find a complaint on the IEC website.

“I have witnessed Ms. Saine knowingly making false statements about the Town of Eaton during one of your regular public meetings,” Moser wrote. “… In the last week, I have fielded several complaints and messages from concerned residents who live in the county, outside our city limits. These complaints are fueled by comments that Ms. Saine has made that have led the public to believe that the Town of Eaton is going to annex a three-mile radius around our Town limits, essentially taking away property rights of farmers and residents within this radius.”

Moser continues “…I am convinced that Ms. Saine’s sole intent is to sow discontent and cause confusion for the residents of our community. I consider what she has done to be highly inappropriate and unethical.  Make no mistake, her actions are purposeful and, in my opinion designed to cause friction between the Town of Eaton and the Ag community.”

Saine dealt the final blow on March 26 when she abandoned her re-election bid for Commissioner District 3 and announced she would be challenging Buck for the at-large seat.

Saine nearly lost her primary bid in 2020, beating Fort Lupton Mayor Tommy Holton by just 17 votes. She will need to win over voters in the entire county to beat Buck, who has a long family history in Weld County. Buck’s father Bill Webster was a commissioner in the 1990’s. Webster was president of Webster Land & Cattle Company. Buck’s mother Sylvia Webster was a two-term member of the Greeley-Evans School District Board of Education.

“I understand that it is highly unlikely that Ms. Saine will resign and therefore I urge you as a board to investigate any action that you can take to stop her continued efforts to undermine the good works of your board and the other municipalities in the county,” Moser said. “The people of Weld County deserve better.”


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