For Immediate Release: June 14, 2021
Contact: Chandra Rosenthal (303) 898-0798, Monica Mercola MMercola@peer.org
Political Sabotage by Anti-Wolf Colorado Parks Manager
State Funds and Staff Used to Undermine Governor and Wolf Advocates
Denver — A senior state wildlife official has been fully reinstated after he was caught using public resources in a private campaign against reintroduction of wolves in Colorado, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The senior manager sought to discredit what he perceived to be pro-wolf appointees in order to slow plans by the Governor to release wolves in Colorado in implementing results of a statewide election.
Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPW) Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke was a vocal opponent of Ballot Initiative 114, which voters passed in November 2020. That measure gave the DPW a mandate to plan for gray wolf reintroduction by the end of 2023. One month after its passage, Romatzke urged his subordinates, during official time and using state funds, to –
- Gather video clips showing two perceived pro-wolf Parks and Wildlife Commissioners in a bad light. The effort was to diminish the influence of one Commissioner, Taishya Adams, and block Senate confirmation of the other, Jay Tutchton;
- Leaked communications about wolf reintroduction from the Governor’s office and DPW leadership to the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, which had opposed Initiative 114, in hopes that the leaks would disrupt reintroduction plans; and
- Urged his staff to work with anti-wolf factions to “spread the message” about potential adverse impacts, contrary to orders halting further wolf-related communications.
“These actions are fundamentally incompatible with the basic principles of public service,” stated PEER Rocky Mountain Director Chandra Rosenthal. “State employees are certainly entitled to their own views but are not entitled to pursue their own political agendas using public resources and the authority of their office.”
An internal investigation led DPW to suspend Romatzke for 90 days (believed to be with full pay) and then to fully reinstate him as Northwest Regional Manager. However, the DPW took no other action to inform DPW staff as to what had occurred or to notify the two Commissioners whom Romatzke had targeted. In an April 12, 2021, letter on the subject DPW Human Resources Director Windi Padia wrote:
“After a thorough investigation, we found evidence that some of the alleged offenses occurred. I consider this complaint closed, and any disciplinary or corrective action taken as a result of this complaint are part of personnel files and not subject to disclosure under the Colorado Open Records Act.”
“Whatever privacy interests Mr. Romatzke has in this episode are more than outweighed by the public interest in knowing whether state agencies are being commandeered to run shadow political campaigns,” added Rosenthal.