RBC | On Monday, Rio Blanco County released two of the January executive sessions held with former Road and Bridge Director Dave Morlan. The audio recordings, made public on the county’s YouTube channel, comes with a “strong language” warning due to use of profanity by all parties in attendance.
The January sessions followed previous executive sessions with Morlan in 2020 related to a complaint filed by Rangely district supervisor Roy Gilbert claiming verbal abuse and a hostile work environment after Gilbert was reprimanded for policy violations related to various road and bridge projects. The complaint triggered an HR investigation which took several months to complete. The investigation indicated both Gilbert and Morlan had violated county policy — Morlan by his use of profanity in his reprimand to Gilbert.
The Jan. 13 executive session between Morlan and the commissioners ended after a little more than 2.5 hours with plans for the commissioners to meet with road and bridge department staff and with Gilbert and Morlan. The second session was about 1.5 hours long and included Gilbert
Commissioner Jeff Rector expressed his frustration with Morlan’s handling of road and bridge staff, as well as specific complaints about Rangely roads compared to Meeker roads, particularly the way snow was removed from County Road 23 following a heavy storm. Commissioner Gary Moyer said one of the conditions of the investigation was that there be no retaliation against Gilbert for filing a complaint, and said he wanted two things to happen: for Morlan to accept responsibility for his mistakes and “to accept, and truly mean it, that the commissioners are the boss.”
Also discussed was contention over the way the staff vote for “employee of the year” was handled by Gilbert.
By the time of the executive sessions, Morlan had retained an attorney’s representation, fearing the loss of his job. At one point during the first session, former county attorney Todd Starr was called in to clarify a miscommunication between Morlan’s attorney and Starr in which Starr reportedly told Morlan’s attorney that Rector and former commissioner Si Woodruff wanted to fire Morlan. Moyer said he also had a verbal altercation with Morlan.
Commissioner Ty Gates, who was in his first week as a commissioner at the time of the meetings, said he believed the problem with road and bridge boiled down to staff failing to follow appropriate “chain of command” wherein staff reports to supervisors, supervisors report to Morlan, and Morlan reports to the commissioners. Accompanying “he said/she said” miscommunication was deemed to contribute to dissension and flared tempers, and a plan was laid for a “fresh start,” including a warning to be given by commissioners to all road and bridge staff: anyone caught “bad-mouthing” another employee would be “fired on the spot.”
As it relates to the recall campaign, Commissioner Gary Moyer has stated the content of the executive sessions would provide clear answers as to why Morlan was not reappointed to his position as road and bridge director. You can listen to both sessions by scanning the QR codes in this article, or at the following links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxlW_6iU1Gg&t=5940s and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vum5V-hZrJk&t=90s
By NIKI TURNER – firstname.lastname@example.org