New questions for Gwen Lachelt

To the editor,

La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt faces new ethics questions with the revelation that a group with close ties to California billionaire Tom Steyer is pouring thousands of dollars to help her fight against a recall brought by La Plata County citizens.

Oh the irony! It turns out the queen of outside dark money is actually Commissioner Lachelt herself.

Even more troubling is Lachelt has made baseless actuations against our group of La Plata County citizens who have dared to raise questions about her relationship with outside organizations. These citizens have stated Lachelt doesn’t represent their interests and has acted unethically. The group has started a grass roots effort to recall her.

Lachelt has made claims that Americans for Prosperity and big oil companies are backing the recall effort. But the AFP has publicly stated they have no involvement with the recall (Durango Herald, Feb. 19).

Conversely, Lachelt has big-money special interest groups fighting to oppose the recall. Colorado State records show Conservation Colorado (which has backing from Steyer) is funding an issues committee called “United Against the Recall.” This group has launched several advertising efforts to oppose the recall.

Ethics concerns were raised last year when information surfaced that Lachelt formed an organization called Western Leaders Network, she is a paid employee of WLN and is paid for expenses for her lobbying in Washington, D.C. La Plata County has revised its ethics policy as a result of Lachelt’s actions.

Questions about her objectivity as a county commissioner were raised given her connections to several environmental organizations. She formed San Juan Citizens Alliance, Oil & Gas Accountability Project (now Earthworks) and Western Leaders Network. She was a director and/or paid employee for these organizations.

Last June, Lachelt proposed that the county file a friends-of-the-court brief in support of the Martinez Lawsuit. The commissioners voted 2 to 1 against Lachelt’s proposal. If successful, the suit would have a significant negative impact on the energy industry in Colorado. La Plata County relies heavily on the industry for tax revenue and jobs. When asked about conflicts of interest, Lachelt failed to disclose she was a paid employee of WLN and one WLN director is also a director of Earthworks. Earthworks is named in the lawsuit.

Interestingly, the registered address for WLN and United Against the Recall is the same (1309 East 3rd Ave., Durango).

It’s time for Lachelt to come clean! We demand Lachelt make full disclosure of WLN finances including her salary, moneys spent on travels to Washington D.C. (for lobbying) and funding sources. If not, she should act in the best interest of La Plata County and step down. Clearly the need for this recall is even more important now.

– David Peters, Ty Hawkins and Mike Cugini