Douglas County Commissioner Lora Thomas suspended by colleagues from her chair position

Bad blood continues to spill among Douglas County’s top elected leaders, with two commissioners voting this week to demote Lora Thomas from her position as chair of the board, saying she works to “bully, harass and intimidate those with whom she disagrees.”

In a press release issued Tuesday, commissioners Abe Laydon and George Teal called for an investigation into whether Thomas helped contribute to a hostile work environment at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office after a deputy there cited the dissemination of a letter containing “false information” about her.

Thomas, who is serving as commissioner while running for Douglas County sheriff, acknowledged in an interview Friday to referencing and distributing the 2019 anonymous employee letter, which outlines a wide array of leadership deficiencies and conflicted relationships at the agency, at the Douglas County Republican assembly last month.

“I used that letter for my campaign for sheriff,” Thomas said.

She faces three other Republicans running for sheriff in Colorado’s June 28 primary election.

The deputy, who Laydon identified as Amanda Walter, resigned from the sheriff’s office this month, saying in an April 5 letter to Sheriff Tony Spurlock that the information released about her was “crushing.”

Attempts to reach Walter on Friday were unsuccessful.

The commissioners also alleged that Thomas tried to “doxx” — or release personal or identifying details about — farmers in the San Luis Valley connected to a large water transfer project Douglas County is exploring.

“It’s a culmination of over a year of issues we’ve been trying to work through,” Teal told The Denver Post Friday of his decision to suspend Thomas from her chair post.

Thomas said her suspension as chair Tuesday is simply an ongoing reflection of her colleagues’ anger at her for not voting in lockstep with them.

“I’ve never been establishment,” said Thomas, a retired major with the Colorado State Patrol and a former Douglas County coroner. “I’ve never been ‘good ole boy.’ I believe this is an attempt to smear my good name and record.”

She has been a Douglas County commissioner since 2016, having been re-elected in 2020.

This week’s drama in Castle Rock echoes a similar dispute that sprouted up exactly a year ago among the board of commissioners, when Laydon and Teal tried to oust Thomas from her role as chair after accusing her of “frequent dissemination of misinformation and untruths.”

That situation was defused when the three commissioners agreed to rotate the chairmanship going forward.

Teal said the breaking point for him this week was Thomas’ recent attempt to get an attorney hired by the county to oversee a proposal by Renewable Water Resources to drill into San Luis Valley aquifers and pipe water hundreds of miles to fast-growing Douglas County to disclose the names of participants at meetings scheduled in the valley last week to discuss the project.

“The Board is also in receipt of correspondence from Lora Thomas which was not authorized by the Board wherein she attempted to “dox” farmers who had expressed fear that there would be personal and financial retribution to them for speaking out about water issues,” the county’s press release said.

Teal said the board had already voted not to publicize the names of farmers taking part in the water talks and Thomas went behind the board majority’s back with her request.

“You can’t go against the vote of the board and expect to be chair,” he said.

Thomas, who opposes the water transfer project, said the allegation she was trying to doxx anyone was a “bald-faced lie.” She said she was just trying to obtain basic information about a major proposed undertaking by Douglas County.

“I was with the Colorado State Patrol for 26 years and I understand the importance of confidentiality,” she said.

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