Commissioner pays $78.50 fine for fire-ban violation
In the end, a $3 charcoal grill cost Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis $78.50.
Appearing without an attorney at the Chaffee Combined Courthouse in Salida, Meis, 42, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a Chaffee County ordinance violation and was ordered by County Judge William Alderton to pay fines and court costs totalling $78.50.
Meis pleaded guilty to unlawfully attending or using an open fire during Stage 2 fire restrictions, a petty offense. It was the only charge filed in the case.
Tuesday’s hearing appears to resolve a case that spurred a now-famous e-mail exchange between Meis and Chaffee County Sheriff Peter Palmer, who accused the commissioner of trying to fix the ticket.
Meis was cited June 30 for using a small “EZ Grill” while with a camping party in the San Isabel National Forest. Meis later wrote to Palmer he was willing to pay a fine but would be “disappointed” if he had to make the trip to Salida for a mandatory court appearance, before asking Palmer to exercise his “discretion.” Palmer sent an angry reply to Meis and forwarded the correspondence to The Daily Sentinel, among other media outlets.
Meis denied trying to sway Chaffee County’s handling of the matter, calling the suggestion “entertaining.”
The commissioner’s e-mails with Palmer were exchanged on July 3.
Records obtained by The Daily Sentinel show Meis on July 2 was warned by Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey about trying to fix a ticket. Meis, in an e-mail, inquired of Hilkey about discretion sheriffs have after the issuance of a ticket.
” ... ‘fixing a ticket’ is considered an ethical noose that I’d rather not put around me or my agency’s neck,” Hilkey replied to Meis.