Grand County official resigns after fight over making emails public

County administrator refuses commissioner’s blanket request for emails. Winfield said his interest is in transparency.

After seven years of employment, Grand County Commission Administrator Mallory Nassau has resigned effective June 20, citing an “untenable and hostile situation” due to Commissioner Bill Winfield’s requests to see any email exchanges between her and Commission Chair Jacques Hadler, Vice Chair Kevin Walker and Associate Administrator Quinn Hall.

Winfield said his requests were an effort to bring transparency to the commission, alleging it appears certain commissioners are discussing issues outside of the purview of the entire seven-member body.

According to Nassau, Winfield informally requested the emails in March. Nassau resisted his request because she said its scope was overly broad rather than narrowly defined. She said she was unaware of any exchanges that could “get someone in trouble,” but that she denied his request on principle.

Nassau was hired as an associate administrator in March of 2017 and was promoted in January of 2022. She said she would turn over the emails if directed to do so by a majority of the commission. “I work for the commission as a whole, not individual commissioners,” she said.

Winfield, she said, sought to have her disciplined for insubordination.

“The environment has changed and I don’t feel that I can serve them well,” she said of the commission. “I was going to hand over the emails, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought this just isn’t right. The dynamic is someone is trying to have power and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

For Winfield, the issue isn’t about power, but about being transparent. He said it was apparent commissioners were discussing often controversial conditional use permit applications. “They’re having lots of meetings that not everyone has been privy to,” he said. To be clear, Winfield is not alleging Open Meeting laws have been violated.

He said conditional use permits for the Great Escapes bike company and the Kane Creek Preservation and Development were also “hinky.” That perception compelled him to seek guidance from Grand County Attorney Stephen Stocks, who he said assured him he is entitled to the same information as any other commissioner.

Nassau said morale is low in the county courthouse because staff has been distracted from doing their day-to-day work due to “all this chaos.”

Winfield has since filed a formal GRAMA — Government Records Access Management Act — seeking “all communication between Commission Chair Jacques Hadler, Vice Chair Kevin Walker and Administrator Mallory Nassau and Deputy Administrator Quinn Hall between the dates of January 1, 2024 and June 12, 2024 regarding all topics including but not limited to BLM TMP’s (travel management plans); CUP’s (conditional use permits), Great Escapes CUP, Kane Springs Development CUP and Kane Watch. I am willing to pay any fees this request generates.”

It is unclear if the county will approve Winfield’s request. Nassau said he is motivated in part due to his questioning a series of 5-2 votes, which are common thanks to the political ideologies held by current individual commissioners.

Winfield said he might seek the assistance of the state if his request is denied. “I’ve been told I’m breaking down communication,” he said. “But I’ve never had a cross word with Mallory. I think she’s done an excellent job. She’s a professional.”

“Until recently, I have felt valued and have had a positive relationship with all commissioners,” wrote Nassau in her resignation letter. “Commissioner Winfield’s continual requests for my communications and refusal to provide general subjects, despite expressing my discomfort and reiterating that I need direction from the commission as a body, has created an untenable and hostile situation. I feel these requests sew implications of mistrust and create a toxic and unproductive environment. This dynamic has made it increasingly difficult to perform my duties and maintain the standards of professionalism I hold dear.”

She told The Times-Independent she believes Winfield “dragged” her and her staff into the political side of elected officials and that was a misstep. “We’re here to do the work, not get involved in politics,” she said.

Winfield said to date he received 16 emails from Hadler; none that revealed any red flags. He said his formal GRAMA request was done as a private citizen and not as a county commissioner. “They’re having meetings we’re not all privy to and I find that highly irregular,” he said.

Nassau said in her letter that she hopes “my departure will prompt positive changes that restore the collaborative and respectful atmosphere to our community’s well-being. I welcome the opportunity for an exit interview to provide my thoughts on areas for improvement county-wide.”

This story was first published by The Times-Independent.