Report details findings of Romatzke investigation | Western Colorado

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An internal investigation of Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northwest regional manager JT Romatzke found no direct corroborating evidence to support claims that he worked in a professional capacity to oppose the implementation of the reintroduction of the wolf in the state and attempted to get agency staff to produce a video casting. CPW commissioners seen as pro-wolf in a bad light.

However, the investigation found that Romatzke “acted inappropriately”, violated administrative instructions, compromised trust between himself, CPW and the Department of Natural Resources, and took actions that could be interpreted as questionable, aiding third-party organizations to mobilize opposition to Governor Jared. Polite.

The report raised concerns about Romatzke:

n “Forwarding unsolicited and inflammatory third party e-mails regarding the Governor” to parties such as the Associate Governments of Northwest Colorado, the Colorado Woolgrowers Association, State Representative Perry Will, the 20 Club and the counties of Rio Blanco, Garfield and Moffat;

n “Refrain from communicating conversations of interest” involving legislators to MNR legislation and / or other superiors and relevant personnel in accordance with the CPW administrative directive;

n “Engage staff and subordinates in conversations regarding the dissemination of information regarding the Parks and Wildlife Commissioners, and communicate statements to staff suggesting collusion with outside groups against the proposal.” Last fall, voters approved Proposition 114, requiring the reintroduction of the wolf by the end of 2023.

n “Communicate with the public in a way that indicates a critical philosophical difference between oneself and the leadership of CPW, MNR and administration. “

SURVEY DETAILS EMERGING

The investigation was conducted on the basis of a complaint from Randy Hampton, who worked for Romatzke as a public information officer. Romatzke was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation and then returned to work. Hampton resigned after learning he would have to return to work under Romatzke.

The investigation was conducted by Tim Mauck, deputy director of the DNR. The report and supporting documents, which included redactions, were provided to the Daily Sentinel by a third party.

The Daily Sentinel left a voicemail message on Thursday seeking an interview with Romatzke and was referred by a staff member to a public information official at CPW. DNR spokesperson Chris Arend spoke on Romatzke’s issue on behalf of CPW and DNR.

He said in an email on Thursday: “The documents received by Grand Junction Daily Sentinel confirm what the Natural Resources Department has communicated to the public regarding this personnel matter – that the department has thoroughly and thoughtfully investigated the complaint. in a manner consistent with government employees. resources and procedures. As a result of the investigation, appropriate action was taken. “

Hampton’s January 18 complaint accused Romatzke of making “repeated requests that I engage in actions on behalf of CPW which I believe are unethical, harmful and potentially illegal.” He said Romatzke asked him to find a video editor to review CPW meetings and other online sources to compile and social media videos that could make CPW commissioners Jay Tutchton and Taishya Adams look bad. in the public eye. According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the commissioners are seen to be pro-wolf and the effort was to decrease Adams’ influence and block confirmation of Tutchton by the Senate. It ended up being confirmed this year.

Romatzke reportedly told Hampton that “we can find a way to pay” what the video work would have cost. Hampton said when he later expressed unease with the idea, saying it might be illegal based on the suggested use of CPW funds, Romatzke said not to worry and that he had “already found someone else to do it ”and“ Just don’t tell anyone and everything is fine.

As the investigation notes, Romatzke then said in a recorded Jan.5 meeting with staff members that he had “an outside group” for the video work. “But don’t share this with anyone.”

Mauck wrote in his report: “A regional manager initiating and / or engaging staff in conversations to disseminate information regarding Parks and Wildlife Commissioners, and communicate to staff so as not to ‘share this with anyone. Is inappropriate.

POLITICAL CONCERNS

Mauck also found it suspicious that Will, R-New Castle, sent Romatzke an unsolicited email regarding efforts to generate support against Tutchton’s confirmation as CPW commissioner.

Mauck said the email “raises further concerns about a more in-depth or ongoing conversation” and about Romatzke’s failure to inform relevant CPW and DNR staff of a conversation of interest with a legislator.

However, Mauck said interviews with CPW staff and review of emails and expenses did not directly corroborate the complaint “of Mr. Romatzke’s involvement in, or attempts to, direct the staff to produce “the video.

Hampton’s complaint also cited media coverage in late December, including in The Daily Sentinel, about a possible accelerated deadline for the reintroduction under the Polis administration. He said AGNC served as the source or prompt for this coverage and, on December 16, made a public request for communication between CPW leadership, DNR and Polis on wolf-related action planning. .

Hampton says such a communication would only be known to someone with inside knowledge, and is consistent with Romatzke’s mention of public registration requests during a Dec. 4 call with Hampton.

The complaint states that CPW director Dan Prenzlow asked Romatzke if he was behind the request for records, and when Hampton later asked if he was involved, Romatzke said, “Of course I have. talked to AGNC, but all I did was tell them the truth. “

AGNC Executive Director Bonnie Petersen told The Sentinel AGNC that she made her request without Romatzke’s involvement, and instead based on a number of reports on a possible reintroduction schedule. She said AGNC was never contacted during the Romatzke investigation.

Mauck said in his report that interviews with the staff and a review of the emails did not directly corroborate “the complaint of Romatzke’s involvement or his attempt to direct staff in order to disseminate information against the implementation of Proposition 114, specific to the tip of individuals on a deliberative work process This is a reference to the planning flowcharts regarding a possible reintroduction schedule.

But Mauck cited Romatzke’s actions and communications “which could be interpreted as questionable,” helping third-party efforts to mobilize opposition to Polis and sharing communications that cast a bad light on him, CPW and the United Nations. DNR. Mauck said these things “could be interpreted as demonstrating lack of judgment (sic) as a supervisor and compromising trust within the organization.”

Mauck wrote that Romatzke forwarded the planning flowcharts to his personal email address prompting suspicion, although Romatzke said it was to be able to work on the item from home, and that was something something he had done before.

MORE RESULTS

Among other things, Mauck also cited:

n An email from January 8 in which Romatzke told someone that even after the wolves vote, CPW staff should be careful what they say about wolves because “our leaders here in the state are very supportive of the reintroduction of wolves. Let’s just say … we all have bosses. Mauck said this comment implied a difference of opinion between Romatzke and CPW, DNR and Polis, if not a review of them by Romatzke.

n His comments during a video conference on January 5 in which he said Polis and the DNR suspected he was behind the demand for public recordings by groups including AGNC, and added: “I will not completely deny that I am not. “

n On January 14, Romatzke delivered to many parties an alert to action issued the day before by the Colorado Farm Bureau titled “GOVERNOR DECLARES WAR IN WESTERN COLORADO”. The alert was based on Polis’ comments to the CPW commissioners that day indicating what that group called their “intention to rush the reintroduction of wolves” and introduce wolves before the 2023 deadline.

Among those who received the message from Romatkze were representatives from AGNC, Club 20, Colorado Woolgrowers Association, Will and officials from some local counties.

Romatzke asked Christian Reece, executive director of Club 20, in an email that morning, “Can you push this all your way? She said yes and sent out an action alert on the Fast Track Reintroduction Schedule, with talking points from farm groups. Romatzke then passed the 20 Club alert on to several parties whose names are redacted in Mauck’s report, saying, “I did that.”

Mauck wrote that when Romatzke was asked about the meaning of these words in an investigative interview, he replied, “… we are trying to get as many people to watch these committee meetings and get involved… and to be part of that. … Looking at this, I didn’t write (Reece’s) statement for her. I don’t think the pleading part of that statement represents what I was trying to do. If I had been able to get 10,000 people to pay attention and watch the entire last committee meeting, I would have broadcast (sic) this whether they were for, for, or against.

OUTSTANDING ISSUES

Hampton was frustrated by the DNR / CPW’s lack of words on the investigation and its results, and any disciplinary action that may have been taken against Romatzke. Hampton had only been informed in a letter from the DNR that he had found that some of Romatzke’s alleged infractions had taken place. He said Thursday that he did not see the investigation report until it was passed to him by the Sentinel.

“This certainly confirms the elements raised by my complaint, but still does not respond to the (disciplinary) measures taken,” he said.

He said that at this point these are questions journalists and the public need to ask.

“I’m tired and I’m done and done my job, which was to bring this to the attention of the public,” he said.

Arend said in his email, “Under the Colorado Open Records Act, the department cannot disclose matters related to disciplinary or corrective action for a specific employee.”

Hampton expressed frustration at feeling left hanging by the MNR and its executive director, Dan Gibbs. He says he was assured he would be taken into care when he made himself known as a whistleblower, only to be told he would have to return to work for Romatzke, which he said would be a untenable situation for him and Romatzke.


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