Pay hike for Mesa County official approved in secret

The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction): Mesa County commissioners disagree over how a $26,000 pay raise for a top county official got approved in a process that may have violated Colorado open meetings laws.

Department of Human Services Executive Director Tracey Garchar’s raise was approved in January without public input. Commissioners John Justman and Scott McInnis said the decision — made while Chairwoman Rose Pugliese was out of town — was both legal and came on the advice of the county attorney.

But some media law experts say the commissioners acted illegally when they approved Garchar’s $151,000 salary without a properly noticed public meeting and discussion.

Interviews, emails and text messages obtained by The Daily Sentinel through the Colorado Open Records Act show Justman and McInnis decided more than a month after Garchar’s performance review to give him a raise, just as Pugliese was on county business in Denver. The raise came less than four years after Pugliese attempted to fire Garchar after discovering the child-welfare budget was overspent and voicing her displeasure with his performance.

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