Russ Baldwin of the Prowers Journal out of the southeastern plains town of Lamar reports on a heated meeting of the Prowers Medical Center Board of Directors at the end of September to address the COVID-19 vaccination mandate that took effect on October 1, resulting in a small percentage of health care workers and public employees who refused to comply losing their jobs:
The Prowers Medical Center Board of Directors heard from over 100 callers and in-person attendees during a special meeting September 29th, held to receive comments and questions from the audience regarding vaccine and health guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado Department of Health.
The majority of residents, crowding the hospital hallway outside the meeting room, were there to voice their opinions on the national mandate requiring hospital employees to be masked as of September 30th or not be allowed to work. Of the 23 PMC employees who requested an exemption from the mandates by way of medical situations or religious beliefs, one received the exemption, requiring the balance to abide by the mandates…
It’s a situation that has played out all over the country countless times in the last 18 months as lower-ranking officials absorb the public’s wrath over measures put in place well above their pay grade. In Mesa County, as readers know, angry mobs threatened the all-GOP Mesa County Board of Commissioners with “civil war” over mask mandates and other measures imposed by the state government. However you feel about public health orders to control the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s simply wrong to take out your frustrations on functionaries who have no ability to affect the policy they’re charged with enforcing.
Apparently, nobody explained this to the area’s representative in the state legislature, Rep. Richard Holtorf:
Several speakers, including District 64 State Representative, Richard Holtorf, warned the board they could be held liable in civil litigation for denying the hospital employees their ability to work and suggesting that the board is violating their constitutional rights. “Which side of the litigation will you be on in the future, you need to consider your liability as this can go before the state supreme court. He also suggested the board send a letter of protest to the CDPHE as they are being forced to pre-decide on people’s employment before the October 21st ruling. Without specifying what he intended to do, Holtorf warned, “I’ve got background on some of you (board) members!” [Pols emphasis]
So for starters, Holtorf is just spouting nonsense when he invokes “constitutional rights” hospital employees have to disregard public health orders. That’s not now and has never been a thing, certainly not in “right to work” Colorado. But it’s a much bigger problem for Holtorf to make threats of retaliation against a hospital’s board of directors. Holtorf doesn’t appear to have broken outright Colorado’s recently-signed law protecting public health workers from “doxxing” threats, but this is the kind of behavior that law was written for.
As Marianne Goodland at the Colorado Springs Gazette’s political blog reports, House Republicans actually defended Holtorf’s threatening comments to the Prowers Medical Center Board of Directors:
[A]ccording to a spokesperson for House Republicans, Holtorf was not threatening anyone.
“He was simply stating that he was aware of how the mandate was being handled by the hospital and board members. During the meeting he noted that he had ‘background’ information on how the board members had denied 22 of the 23 requests for medical or religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate. There were no threats made, just recognition of events that had been taking place,” said spokesperson Isabelle Daigle.
Sorry, but that explanation doesn’t add up with what Holtorf actually said. The denial of requested exemptions for the vaccine was not “background” information, it was the subject the hearing. We don’t see how anyone on the receiving end of Holtorf’s statement could interpret it as anything other than a threat.
And again, if anyone should know he’s barking up the wrong tree in this case, it’s a state representative:
As to mandates, an Oct. 6 bulletin from the county health department said, “Your local public health agency has no ability to change the vaccine mandates handed down by the state or federal government. Enforcement is not a part of our jurisdiction. In Colorado, local public health agencies can make rules tighter than those of the state but cannot loosen them. Prowers County Public Health and Environment has no intention of doing this and has not done this throughout the pandemic. Please direct your concerns to your Governor and state and federal legislators.” [Pols emphasis]
Rep. Holtorf has written himself plenty of flat-out embarrassing headlines in only three years in office, referring to a colleague on the floor of the House as “Buckwheat,” telling another colleague who happens to be the father of a mass shooting victim to “let go,” and once invoking his “Irish legacy” on the House floor to ask the question, “What if I’m not even sober?”
Add this latest act of downright creepiness to the list.