Decimating Professional Management

John Martin’s desire for direct control of county business led him to purge the county of its professional management team and we are reaping the bitter harvest of this purge. Don’t take our word for it, take the word of former Garfield County Manager Ed Green in his endorsement of John Acha.


In 1998 I came to Garfield County from private industry and assumed the position of County Manager for Garfield County. The county was at that time, an amorphous unstructured organization that was plagued by political influence, fear, intimidation of employees, and a severe lack of direction. The then seated commissioners consisted of two relative newcomers; Larry McCown, and John Martin. All of them, including Chairman Marion Smith impressed upon me that it was imperative the county be transformed into a professional and well run organization free of political pressure, fear and intimidation. I and the entire staff of the county set out to accomplish that transformation and thirteen years later we all had a lot to show for our efforts. But what is remarkable is that the same Commissioner, who led the charge for the transformation, was the one that led the current group of Commissioners to return the organization to one driven by political influence and intimidation. That Commissioner is John Martin.

The turning point came on October 28, 2011, when the BOCC convened me and Attorney Drew Gorgey for a meeting to provide direction regarding management of the county. The meeting was not characterized as an executive session nor was it posted as a special meeting. To my knowledge, there was never a record of the meeting; only the record burned into my memory. There were three key directions given. First, the Commissioners stated that John Martin would personally handle real property sales and purchases. The reason was that Commissioner Martin was not satisfied with the progress of the proposed transactions, and, as has been well documented in past editorials regarding those transactions, he had a definite view of the negotiation outcomes that was not necessarily in the best interest of county residents. As a consequence, millions of taxpayer dollars were unnecessarily expended for properties of dubious value to the county. Further, it is well documented that significant expenditures were necessary to remediate structural and environmental deficiencies of these facilities.

The second purpose of the meeting was to inform me that I needed to dismiss four members of my senior leadership team. The reasons given for the resignations were, in my mind, clear-cut violations of federal law which would have resulted in indefensible EEOC claims. Accordingly, I refused to comply. I know many of you are thinking that this is hard to believe, but there is no need to believe me. Three of the four individuals targeted suffered adverse actions after I left. Two of the three were given severance packages to secure their silence and the third was essentially demoted but allowed to remain employed.

The final point of direction was notification that the Commissioners would heretofore be involved in day to day operations of the county. Additionally, they stated that there would be no further need for strategic planning. Their approach would be to provide me with their objectives for the organization, and their expectations for implementation. Finally, they stated that they would create a very centralized organization focused on them and overseen by them. Although they did not describe it as such, their new “linear approach” to management would also have political considerations and would include measures to keep employees in line. Sounds a lot like the organization structure we spent 13 years trying to undo, doesn’t it? That’s what I attempted to convey to the Commissioners, but they were in no mood to listen to my input. About nine weeks later, I was sent out the door and the carousel of numerous and very expensive management changes began.

For me, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I went on to become a city manager in Florida, enjoyed living a block from the ocean, achieved closure to my career, and was able to come back to Garfield County and begin my retirement in the state I love.

Far more important than my story is Garfield County. I am a Republican and a conservative; however, I cannot in good conscience support John Martin for another four years. Over the past 20 years, John has changed and he has become a professional politician, one who believes he is more important than the office he occupies. I fervently believe that no one should serve in an office longer than eight years. After that, regardless of your original good intentions, you become just another political hack. Lord John Acton, a 19th century English historian coined it best: “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I leave it to you to decide if John Martin has reached the level of absolute power.

This year, I will be supporting John Acha, the Democratic candidate for Commissioner in District 2. I believe he is the candidate who can help return the county to a professionally run organization that is free of political influence and intimidation. I also believe that he can help combat the “group think” that has dominated Commission decisions over the past few years. Finally, I know that he believes the office is more important than the person who occupies it.

Ed Green