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Group gets commissioner's e-mails, finds nothing wrong

January 1, 2002

A group opposed to a proposed use tax that died in the Nov. 6 election has asked for, and received, e-mails from La Plata County Commissioner Bob Lieb, but found nothing nefarious in Lieb’s involvement with use-tax supporters.

Lieb was criticized during the campaign as unethically, perhaps illegally, using his public position to aid the special interest group called Residents for Open Space Initiative, known as ROSI.

Critics, including County Clerk Linda Daley, questioned Lieb’s involvement in helping ROSI craft the ballot language and having county staff, including county attorneys, review the ballot language.

Lieb helped ROSI on his own time, but his e-mails are public record because he used his computer at the courthouse. County staff and attorneys had to review the proposed initiative because the Board of County Commissioners is the only avenue for an initiative to make it on the ballot in La Plata County.

On Nov. 3, the Citizens League Opposing the Use Tax asked Lieb for copies of his e-mails to and from the ROSI committee, and to and from other people involved with the proposed use tax.

Lieb said the group, called CLOUT, then withdrew its request, and over the next three or four weeks reinstated its request and haggled with the county over how much it would cost to produce the e-mails.

CLOUT paid $203 to the county as a deposit toward the final cost, which is still unknown. It then received the e-mail list and found nothing that indicated Lieb did anything wrong, said Doug Davis, an early supporter of the use tax who later left ROSI to help CLOUT.

"The e-mails were just a good laugh," because they show how worried ROSI was about involving the car dealers and if the public found out, Davis said.

Those concerns were realized after a copy of early ROSI minutes was dropped off anonymously at The Durango Herald the week before the Nov. 6 election. The minutes showed ROSI members were concerned about taking money from car dealers, who could benefit financially if the initiative passed – particularly if the involvement was made public by the Herald.

Two stories describing the car dealers’ involvement based on the minutes ran days before the election. The initiative was defeated by 3-to-1. It was the fourth time a use tax in La Plata County has failed in 26 years.

CLOUT will probably pay another $400 or $500 for the copies of Lieb’s e-mails, Davis said.

Lieb said he has nothing to hide and that he has copies of his e-mails for anyone who wants to look at them.

By Tom Sluis. Copyright © 2002, the Durango Herald.


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