SAGUACHE COUNTY— Sometime during Thanksgiving week, the new county administrator hired by Saguache County in August, David Bitler of South Fork, resigned his position effective immediately. Commissioners claim he was still within his probationary period.
Rumors have swirled since Bitler’s departure. Last week the Center Post-Dispatch receive a tip that Bitler had resigned after it was discovered he was involved with another courthouse employee. All attempts to confirm that report have failed, with credible sources denying the cause for Bitler’s resignation was an inappropriate relationship with an inferior employee.
Bitler was not available for comment.
The Center Post-Dispatch has filed a Colorado Open Records Act request to discover if there is any truth to the rumors. The employee named by the tipster as involved with Bitler did not return calls by press time. Political animus during the election is one explanation for why someone might be targeting the person named as associated with Bitler.
One source noted that when Bitler turned in his resignation, he commented he was not going to let Saguache County ruin his reputation.
Courthouse employees expressed their displeasure over the fact that commissioners did not inform them of Bitler’s resignation or the reasons for his resignation. One source commented that no one even knows who is supposed to run county administration during his absence. Another source suggested Bitler was pressured into resigning because he had uncovered information embarrassing to commissioners.
Various sources at the courthouse and in the community expressed their support for Bitler, describing him as a hardliner who was pleasant to work with and relating that he held commissioners’ feet to the fire. He was reportedly strong on budget issues and this brought him into conflict with certain elected officials favored by one commissioner who did not receive the budgetary considerations they believed they deserved.
Sources claim this same commissioner, identified as Tim Lovato, had numerous run-ins with Bitler and even threatened to fire him. The vote to hire Bitler was not unanimous, records show, with Lovato opposing his hiring. During the interview process for county administrator, Lovato supported another candidate initially interviewed for the position, Glen Simpson, who was on the agenda Monday, Dec. 3 for an interview with commissioners.
Tim Lovato opened the special meeting interview with a statement to the effect that prior to the interview process last summer, he had not known Simpson and is not a personal friend of his. In a later conversation, Lovato told the Center Post-Dispatch reporter she should have called him directly to ask about his friendship with Simpson rather than relying on rumors. The reporter responded that commissioners should have addressed the resignation when it occurred.
During his interview, Simpson demonstrated his strong background in budgetary matters and financial concerns. He reported that he has a total of 45 years’ experience in both the military and as the chief financial officer for a private firm. He advised commissioners that their handling of finances is 15-20 years behind the times when compared to methods used by Alamosa and Rio Grande counties.
Commissioner Ken Anderson told Simpson he was very impressed with his financial background.
Commissioner Chair Jason Anderson told Simpson “There is no position being offered today or tomorrow” (at the commissioner’s first regular session Dec. 4.) “We are just gauging if you are still interested.” He notified Simpson the board could not consider him as a finalist until they have clarified their job description for county administrator. He also noted that Bitler quit in between commissioners’ regular sessions and the commission had not yet accepted his resignation.
The 14-day period required by state law for publicizing a list of candidates being considered for the administrator’s position also has not been met yet, J. Anderson observed, and this would need to be satisfied. The commissioners closed the special meeting with J. Anderson commenting they would contact Simpson “sometime after Jan. 8” when the board has its first meeting.
For information on administrator hiring practices and the current job description for Saguache County administrator, see the article on page 3A.