A small group of protesters with a one-man band and a bugler gathered March 26 in front of the Jeffco government building to protest what they see as the unethical behavior of former county commissioner John Odom.
After losing the District 2 seat in last November’s election to Democrat Casey Tighe, Odom stopped attending meetings. Starting after the Nov. 15 regular meeting of the commission, Odom missed up to six meetings.
For the month and a half that remained in his term after losing the election, Odom collected more than $15,000 in compensation when county benefits are taken into account, said Judy Denison, who was helping to lead the protest.
Odom’s only penalty for missing the meetings was $60, Denison said.
“It’s a matter of ethics and integrity,” Denison said. “He did nothing illegal. He paid his $60 fine (for missing six meetings). He collected his pay and did nothing for it.”
According to Jeffco spokeswoman Kathryn Heider, Odom missed six required meetings after losing the election: two on Dec. 4, two on Dec. 11 and two on Dec. 18.
County commissioners, by law, are required only to attend two meetings a week. If a commissioner misses any of those meetings for an unexcused reason, by law the county can deduct $10 per meeting from the commissioner’s pay, Heider said.
The final paycheck in Odom’s $87,300 annual salary was docked $60, Heider said. She didn’t know if Odom attended other meetings after the election was declared for Tighe several weeks after Election Day.
Denison, along with about a dozen other protesters, called on Odom to donate the salary he collected after he stopped attending meetings to the Jefferson Center for Mental Health. The center had its budget cut by $163,000 by the county this year.
Among the votes Odom missed was the one that gave final approval to the county’s 2013 budget.
Since the November election, Odom has not responded to several requests from the Courier for an interview, including one made last week.
It seems Odom’s reticence to talk to the media also extends to his former constituents and supporters.
Both Denison and Bob Haworth — who attended last Tuesday’s protest at the Taj Mahal and performed as a one-man band — said they had reached out to Odom, with no response. Haworth, who said he voted for Odom, even tried to speak to the former commissioner at his home.
“He was hostile,” Haworth said. “I thought it was going to get unpleasant.”
According to Haworth, after Odom told him to get off his property, Odom told Haworth he didn’t owe the taxpayers anything. Haworth said he wanted to make sure Odom had a chance to tell his side of the story.
“If he had a reason for the absences, he should have said them,” Haworth said. “He was miffed he lost the election, and he wasn’t going to go to work.”
Karen Oxman, another protester, said the number of Jeffco commissioners should be increased from three to five to reflect the county’s large population.
Denison said one goal of the protest was to send other politicians a message that they will be held accountable.
Contact Ramsey Scott at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.