County Assessor candidates go on the attack

Down-ballot opponents add spice to candidate meet-and-greet

Posted 9/19/18

Opponents in the race to be Adams County’s assessor took swipes at each other to close out a mannerly candidates meet-and-greet in Northglenn Sept. 14. Republican Patsy Melonakis, the Republican …

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County Assessor candidates go on the attack

Down-ballot opponents add spice to candidate meet-and-greet

Posted

Opponents in the race to be Adams County’s assessor took swipes at each other to close out a mannerly candidates meet-and-greet in Northglenn Sept. 14.

Republican Patsy Melonakis, the Republican seeking a second term as the county assessor said that her opponent, Democrat Ken Musso, played a part in the corruption she cleaned up when she took over the position four years ago.

“There was nothing but corruption when I got there,” Melonakis said. “Nobody wanted to stand up and change anything. He had the chance to do that before, but he didn’t.”

Musso denied that, saying he was running to unseat Melonakis because she was a bad manager.

“That’s one of my goals, to create a good work environment,” he said. “Employees deserve a good work environment, free of intimidation and hostility.”

The conflict was the spice in a polite gathering, hosted by the Adams League of Women Voters at the Community Reach Center on Highline Drive in Northglenn.

In all, 19 candidates from 13 races — ranging from U.S. Representative to Adams County Coroner — took turns introducing themselves to an audience of 25 people, then waited around afterwards to talk with voters and answer questions.

The candidate’s introductions were light and friendly for the first 90 minutes, with candidates sketching out their history, their motivations for running for office and their goals.

Candidate Shannon Bird, the Democrat seeking the State Representative seat in District 35, said she grew up at a time when the system worked.

“You could still go down the street to a high-quality public school in your neighborhood, have access to the best teachers,” Bird said. “A kid like me, growing up in a trailer park, could still become an adult with the career I have right now. I am an attorney with three graduate degrees who has represented banks and real estate developers — and I started from nothing.”

Mark Barrington, the Republican seeking to unseat Ed Perlmutter in the U.S. Congressional District 7, said he wants a balanced federal budget, a stronger military and safer schools.

“It’s time we send someone who is committed to waking up Washington, who is going to focus on your kids and your families and your futures,” he said. “I want you to imagine ten years from now, in 2029, when we’ve done a great job working for the constituents and the adoption rate surpasses the number of abortions in our country.”

Down ballot drama

Musso, the Democrat hoping to unseat Melonakis as the Adams County Assessor, took a similar tack. He talked about how important the assessor’s job of keeping track of county property values is.

“The revenues generated from property taxes pay for most essential services provided by the county, including the public schools, the police department, fire, water and sanitation and things of that nature,” he said. “It quite an important job.”

A real estate appraiser by trade and former Adams County appraiser for industrial properties, he said he understand how the department works. He said he wants to improve the working environment, fiscal responsibility and be more transparent.

“I think it’s very important to have somebody in that position who can do the job well,” he said.

Melonakis, hoping to win her second term in the seat, compared Musso to Assessor Gil Reyes, whom she replaced in 2014. Reyes pleaded no contest to charges of official misconduct in 2013. He was accused of lowering appraised values of properties owned by his top campaign contributor. Reyes also pleaded guilty in 2011 for failure to report gifts.

Melonakis said there haven’t been those problems under her leadership.

“Restoration of trust in this office has been important to me and past unethical and illegal activity had brought the department into disrepute,” she said. “I would note that much of this occurred in the commercial department that my opponent supervised — without any objections or corrections by him.”

Musso asked for more time to rebut his opponent’s allegations at the end of the introduction period, but moderators turned him down.

Afterwards, Musso said he never had a chance to review the previous assessor’s decisions and would have stopped them if he’d had the opportunity. That’s why he’s running now, he said.

Musso accused Melonakis of creating hostile work environment, noting that 30 of the departments 50 employees left after Melonakis took over. He also accused her of spending money to furnish the department frivolously and not notifying senior citizens when they were in danger of losing their exemptions.

“I was trying to keep this clean, but there are a lot of negative things I could say about her,” Musso said. “I wasn’t going to but since she attacked me first, I think it’s only fair to let the cat out of the bag.”

Melonakis said most of those employees quit because she took away unwritten perks of the job — like requiring staff vehicles to bear the County Assessor’s logo — and requiring them to do their jobs.

“People have had to be accountable and those that didn’t want to and didn’t like my policies have left,” she said.

She promised more revelations to come.

“I toned my speech down,” she said. “I could have told these people things that would have curled their hair. And I have facts and figures to back up everything I say.”

Melonakis wasn’t the only Adams County incumbent to decry the county’s conditions when they took over.

Republican Brigitte Grimm, seeking another term as County Treasurer, said she has transformed the department since taking over eight years ago.

“I promised to change the way government does business, and I have done that,” she said. “We’ve expanded hours. We’ve added a satellite office because the bulk of you guys live over here. We’ve created online solutions if you want them. What that means is that phone calls and lobby traffic have gone down, which means wait times are down.”

And Sheriff Mike McIntosh applauded Adams County officials for working together during the last four years, despite their party affiliation.

“When I took office, we didn’t have that cooperation,” McIntosh said. “The county commissioners were being sued by some of the cities and my name was on that lawsuit. It was all over jail issues and the inmate population. But within 60 days I was able to bring the groups together through collaboration and make sure we focused not on ourselves, but on the real issues. We were able to come up with an agreement that saved a lot of money.”

Grimm’s opponent, Democrat Lisa Culpepper, didn’t attend the forum. But Democrat Rick Reigenborn, seeking to replace McIntosh in the sheriff’s job, said his goal was to make the department more employee friendly and retain more trained officers.

“I think the sheriff does a good job and sometimes the employee issues he deals with are like herding cats,” Reigenborn said. “He has almost 500 employees but with team you trust, I think it becomes a little more easy.”

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