Water users association boss Steve Fletcher resigns post
Embattled Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association General Manager Steve Fletcher resigned Tuesday, almost three weeks after it came to light that Fletcher promoted an employee he knew had built and detonated bombs at work and put feces in co-workers’ lunches.
The employee, Aaron English, was promoted to water master in 2011 despite numerous complaints about his behavior. English resigned two weeks ago, according to association president Ray Schmalz.
A workers compensation case provided to The Daily Sentinel detailed English’s actions, which included hiding milk jugs filled with accelerant where employees were clearing ditch banks with blow torches, and also defecating on co-workers while they worked in the ditches.
Former employee Bill Bailey filed a workers compensation claim, and an administrative law judge ruled the association must pay disability benefits to Bailey because he was not responsible for his termination. Bailey lodged complaints to Fletcher about English’s behavior and was fired last May.
Fletcher resigned in executive session at the board’s monthly meeting Tuesday. The meeting lasted more than four hours and was attended by a dozen UVWUA shareholders, but was closed to the public. Association board member George Etchart — who was board president during the key years of Fletcher’s and English’s employment — declined to go into detail about the circumstances of Fletcher’s resignation.
“A lot of consideration was being taken in the situation. We’re not going to go into the personnel issues, we just want to make the statement that Aaron resigned back in January and Steve has chosen to resign effective today,” Etchart said.
Shareholder Gary McCracken, who attended the meeting Tuesday, said he was disturbed by what happened.
“(Fletcher) was aware of it all. He said he had done that in other places. I think he ought to be fired,” McCracken said. “He’s grossly incompetent in what he’s doing. That’s really sickening.”
Shareholder Gary Eshelman said he didn’t agree with how the board handled the problem.
“They’re hiding the problems and they don’t want to address them,” Eshelman said. “They’re making themselves look good by avoiding it.”
John Harold, owner of Tuxedo Corn in Olathe and also a shareholder, attended the meeting to address a different problem, with proxy voting by members. Harold said he knows English personally. “It’s embarrassing. I think it’s been going on for years,” Harold said. “I talked to Aaron, who happened to be a friend of mine, and some of the things he was accused of were probably accurate, but his comment was that they were retaliatory. I think it was poor management.”
Etchart said the information publicized about Fletcher and English did not tell the whole story.
“Many different factors were taken into consideration, not just what’s been going on and what’s been released in the press. There were other issues and other considerations,” he said.