To the editor,
A committee has been formed to recall Rio Grande County commissioner John Noffsker. This non-partisan effort came about in light of serious concerns about how Rio Grande County is being managed. According to the organizational chart on the commissioners’ website, the commissioners work for the citizens of the county, and many of our fellow citizens are questioning the actions of Mr. Noffsker and the board, of which he is currently Chairman.
Our concerns are that Mr. Noffsker:
Has created an adversarial working environment for county employees, which has resulted in both volunteer and forced resignations, as well as terminations.
Has created an adversarial working environment for other elected county officials; some officials refuse to meet with him.
Is incompetent, unprepared for meetings, and fails to grasp issues that are important to the county, which delays important decisions and is clearly a failure to perform the duties sworn to in his oath of office.
Has difficulty communicating effectively with his constituents.
Conducts himself in an inappropriate manner with his peers, subordinates and external persons; he is frequently volatile, threatening, confrontational and unprofessional.
Fails to follow state and county policies, procedures, especially in terms of adhering to open meetings rules.
While our apprehension has been building for some time, we became truly distressed when the well-qualified Director of Public Health was terminated in May. Only six weeks after that termination, the Interim Director of Public Health resigned, citing a lack of support from the board of county commissioners, which had also appointed themselves the County Board of Health. We believe that if there were perceived problems with the Public Health Department, the board would have made a plan to rectify those problems immediately upon the termination of the director. Now, more than two months later, and with yet a second interim director in place, no new hires have been made, and the department only has one nurse. This would be a troubling situation under any circumstances, but in the midst of a pandemic, with schools set to open, and with flu season nearly upon us, this is now a grave concern. The lack of prompt and effective action indicates that Mr. Noffsker’s leadership falls short of what is necessary to keep our county safe and functional.
The county’s administration department has also lost two key people in the last week, including the County Administrator (also the second person in that position to resign while Mr. Noffsker has been commissioner). Among other things, the ability to manage the payroll is now severely limited. As of the last regular meeting of the board, Mr. Noffsker stated that a meeting needs to be held to determine how each commissioner can assist with administrative tasks. But that meeting has not been held yet—at least not in an open meeting setting--which again delays decisions and could affect how and when county employees and suppliers get paid.
Citizens can watch these meetings for themselves on YouTube, on the “Rio Grande Seer” channel. We highly recommend that you watch all the posted meetings, particularly the ones held May 27 and July 27. It is worth noting that fellow Commissioner, Suzanne Bothell, asked Commissioner Noffsker to resign during the July 27 meeting.
For many years, Rio Grande County has been respected and considered a great place to work. It has had its share of problems but has always worked in the spirit of solving the problems together. This is no longer the case under Mr. Noffsker’s ineffectual leadership. The citizens need and deserve a functional and reliable government for Rio Grande County, and thus have launched this effort to recall and replace Mr. Noffsker with a qualified candidate, to be chosen in a subsequent election.
Time is of the essence if we are to get this important decision before the voters on the November ballot. Petitions are available for signature by registered voters of Rio Grande County. Please act quickly and contact Deanne Elliott at [email protected]; Virginia Christensen at [email protected]; Mettje Swift at [email protected], Laura Conchelos at [email protected], or Mona Syring at [email protected] to arrange to sign the petition.