Saturday, November 06, 2010

Petulant Politician vs. Park Police

Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis exercised his constitutional right to a jury trial yesterday. He challenged a citation he received in June from a Colorado State Parks ranger for permitting his 14-year-old son to operate a personal watercraft on Highline Lake, in violation of a state law that sets the minimum legal age as 16. Mr. Meis was found guilty by the three-person jury, and paid a $78 fine.

According to the Daily Sentinel (story paywalled), Mr. Meis called the ticket "frivolous", and "had nothing to do with public safety". The story went on to report that Mr. Meis sent e-mails to the Director of the state Division of Natural Resources, copied to several other local and state officials, protesting what he considered a lack of knowledge and discretion by the ranger.

Mr. Meis also wrote that he hoped the ranger's discretion "would have come into play as he can take these circumstances into consideration rather than punishing all the same for the irresponsible actions of a few that created the law in the first place to the detriment of the responsible majority".

Uh, say what?

It would appear from the above statement that Mr. Meis doesn't have a problem with violating the law, so long as you are being "responsible" about it. I'm wondering if he'll be collecting the car keys at his son's high school graduation party, if not tending bar.

The story also stated that Commissioner Janet Rowland was in attendance for the verdict. I'm wondering what Ms. Rowland, who has championed the causes of children throughout her career in public service, thinks about Mr. Meis' attitude toward reasonable regulations designed to protect both children and all operators of motorized boats and jet skis.

Speaking of reasonable regulations, perhaps it's not such a stretch that Mr. Meis has displayed such disdain for those laws and regulations that cannot be selectively enforced, or that oppress the "responsible majority". He does come from the energy industry, after all.

As an ordinary citizen, Commissioner Meis has exercised his right to speak freely in protest of what he considers an unjust law, unfairly enforced. He has also exercised his right to trial before a jury of his peers. Our justice system and rule of law served its intended purpose quite well.

But as an elected public official, with approval authority over county expenditures and budget in turbulent economic times, Mr. Meis might have given due consideration to the expense of going through a trial, bringing a prosecutor in from out of town (DA Pete Hautzinger claimed a conflict exemption), and the likely lost day's wages or income to those who had to serve on the jury. And for what? A $50 fine that he should have just manned up and paid because he was in the wrong.

This episode shows Mr. Meis' true nature. In my mind it's not one that speaks well of him as a parent or a public servant. Is it any wonder why Jon Peacock might prefer a commute to Aspen than to try and get his old job back?

Have a good weekend.

1 comment:

Fiamma said...

Thank you so much for posting this, John. It is an outrageous, ridiculous, waste of time and money. Having served as a parks officer I have nothing but disdain for this abuse of authority. Believe me I heard it all: I'm a judge, I'm a cop, I'm a fire fighter, I used to be a ...... That's great, and then you should definitely know better! The law is the law. Craig Meis isn't above it. In these economic times where jobs are scarce and hard to come by, where families are struggling to make ends meet and not lose their homes, was this really necessary? Is this really that important in the greater scheme of things? Does Craig really not have anything better to do with his time? This is an appalling lack of judgment and respect.