FORT COLLINS - A longtime county official is calling on state lawmakers to investigate why a Larimer County judge has been absent from work for six months with no explanation but is still drawing a salary.
Judge Robert Rand went on paid administrative leave at the start of July. Neither he nor his bosses at the Colorado Supreme Court will explain why, or even whether he went voluntarily or was ordered to leave the office.
Now, Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson is asking the county's legislative delegation to investigate. The blinds at Rand's courthouse office in Fort Collins are closed, and no clerk serves the public on his behalf. His caseload has been distributed to other judges.
"This is one of the most bizarre things I've seen in two decades of public service," Johnson said.
While his title is "county" judge, Rand doesn't work directly for Johnson and the other two county commissioners. Instead, Rand's $123,000 annual salary is set and paid by the state. County officials like Johnson have no control over him as an employee.
But a former legislator himself, Johnson knows the House has the power to impeach judges, setting the stage for removal by the Senate. Johnson said he can't understand why it's acceptable for a public employee to be inexplicably absent so long while still drawing a salary.
"I have no knowledge of the reasons for this situation and I am hard-pressed to imagine any scenario where a six month paid leave is justified, but (state lawmakers) do have the authority and with that, the responsibility, to look into this," Johnson said. "And I believe they will do so."
In Colorado, judges can be removed by either the Legislature or the Supreme Court, upon recommendation from the secretive Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline. By law, the commission is so secretive it rarely even identifies which judges it has investigated or recommended for discipline or removal.
Voters also can vote against retaining a judge during an election. Voters first retained Rand in 2012, after he was appointed to the bench in 2009. That means he faces his next retention election in 2016.
Rand was a defense attorney before being appointed to the post.
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