Meis tried to use office to avert fine, report says
Contacted by a Colorado State Parks officer, Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis repeatedly referred to his elected position while trying to persuade the officer to let him go with a warning for a boating infraction, according to the officer’s written report.
Interviewed Friday, Meis denied raising his position with the officer and suggested statements attributed to him are fabricated.
State Parks officer Craig Johnson’s report was of a June 18 encounter with Meis over his 14-year-old son’s use of a personal watercraft that day at Highline Lake State Park.
“Mr. Meis also reminded me several times that he was the county commissioner and that he knew the District Attorney very well,” Johnson wrote in the report, which was obtained by The Daily Sentinel under the Colorado Open Records Act.
Meis, however, insists his memory’s clear.
“I did not say that to the officer,” he said.
By whom, when and why the information was falsified in a law enforcement report, as Meis claims, he said he did not know.
“I’m concerned because the alleged events in the report are not as I recall,” Meis said, earlier adding, “My title as county commissioner doesn’t mean (expletive) to a lot of people out there.”
In a prepared statement, State Parks spokeswoman Deb Frazier rejected Meis’ suggestions.
“Colorado State Parks’ leadership stands behind the veracity of Officer Johnson’s report,” Frazier said.
Johnson’s report goes on, “Mr. Meis continued to tell me that it would cost more than the citation is worth for Mesa County to prosecute this case. He also asked me several times why I don’t give warnings. I informed him that it is a very big safety issue and that’s why we do not give warnings on this matter.”
Johnson noted approximately 33 boats were on the lake, which has capacity for 40, according to the report.
“Throughout the contact Mr. Meis kept reminding me that his son had been operating a dirt bike his whole life and did not see the big deal in his son operating a motorboat by himself,” Johnson wrote.
E-mail to state official
Johnson ended up issuing Meis a $50 ticket for permitting a person under age 16 to operate a motorboat, a petty offense.
Five days later, Meis sent an e-mail to Department of Natural Resources Director Mike King, the head of the agency that oversees State Parks, protesting what he called Johnson’s lack of discretion in issuing the ticket.
Former state Sen. Josh Penry, Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey and state Reps. Laura Bradford and Steve King were sent copies of the e-mail. Also sent copies were State Parks Director Dean Winstanley and Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger, who ended up filing a conflict notice and calling in a special prosecutor from the 7th Judicial District.
Meis pleaded not guilty and, representing himself at a trial, was convicted and fined $78 on Nov. 4 in a case prosecuted by 7th Judicial Deputy District Attorney Sherii Price.
Meis, awaiting a verdict that took a jury 20 minutes to reach, called the trial his “personal little tea party.”
DA ‘not happy’
Hautzinger said he decided to remove himself from Meis’ case after reading Meis’ statements to Officer Johnson. Hautzinger said he read the report for the first time, and “considerably later,” after he received a copy of Meis’ e-mail to King.
“I was not happy to read that in the report,” Hautzinger said, when asked about Meis raising the DA with the officer.
When asked about Meis’ claims of wrongdoing, Hautzinger said, “This is the first I’ve heard of a forged report.”
Meis on Friday said he became concerned about the officer’s report after he had requested documents from the special prosecutor in his case as part of the evidence discovery process. In response, Meis said he received copies of the e-mails he had sent to King, among other documents.
“As a result, I was concerned that the police report was either created or amended after my e-mail to Mike King indicating that I planned to take this matter to trial,” Meis said.
Meis said he was prevented from raising questions about the report during his trial.