Meis’ ‘tea party’ is costly retribution

When it comes to a state law that says it’s wrong for someone under age 16 to pilot a personal watercraft, Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis appears to agree with Charles Dickens’ Mr. Bumble:

“If the law supposes that ... the law is a ass, a idiot.”

But Meis’ decision to make state and local taxpayers pay because he is angry with enforcement of the law is equally asinine.

Countless other Coloradans abide by the law, which was written in response to boating accidents by young operators. They don’t make a major court case out of a $50 citation issued when one of their children is caught violating the law. And they don’t blame the officer who wrote the ticket for declining to give them a break.

That’s what Meis did after he was given a ticket last June when his 14-year-old son was caught operating a personal watercraft at Highline Lake State Park.

A judge who handled the court case last week dismissed Meis’ defense that the park ranger who issued the ticket acted frivolously. A three-person jury convicted Meis, in less than 20 minutes, of a petty offense. He had to pay a $78 fine instead of the original $50.

All this at considerable expense to taxpayers — including bringing in a special prosecutor from Montrose — so that Meis could stage what he called his “personal little tea party” over a law he dislikes and enforcement he sees as unjust.

What’s most disturbing is Meis’ determination to make the state pay for the impudence of one of its officers issuing him a ticket.

In an e-mail sent to Mike King, the director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, shortly after the citation was issued, Meis wrote, “I can assure you this is not a revenue generator for the State as this ticket will cost the State much more than the grand total of the fine and court costs that will be levied against me but I’m happy to oblige the State in prosecuting this due to their lack of discretion in issuing the citation in the first place.”

This from an elected official who claims to be a fiscal conservative, who has frequently complained about how much money the state spends and who is struggling to cut county spending.

Meis’ actions also cost the county because it involved the county court and the district attorney. He was well aware of that. In his e-mail to King, he said, “I’ve cc’d our DA as I’m sure he will have to appoint a special prosecutor for this item due to my conflict with their office which I’m sure will cost much more than $50.”

About the law itself, Meis wrote, “I have trouble with rules/laws such as these that are in place to try to save us from ourselves particularly when I and many others like me are responsible and contributing members of our community.”

Meis is certainly entitled to his opinion about the law and how a first offense should be treated when the youngster in question clearly was not operating recklessly. But the point remains that he was violating the law.

If Meis believes that law is egregious, he should work with the Legislature to change it, not force taxpayers to foot the bill for his temper tantrum. As a “responsible and contributing member of the community,” is Meis going to reimburse us?


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