A statement from the county in May said Laydon would reimburse the county government for the cost of attending the program.
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After attending a three-week public policy and leadership program at Harvard University, Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon will offer what he calls a “Harvard Education for a Nickel” course this fall to interested members of the public for free so they can get the benefit of what he learned.
Laydon participated in the $17,400 leadership program — formally called the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program — in June.
Douglas County over the past two decades has sent three senior staff members to the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program, according to the county.
“The county has a long history of paying for continuing education,” Laydon said.
But a statement from the county in May said Laydon would reimburse the county government for the cost of attending the program.
Months later, Laydon does not appear to be standing by that plan.
The county’s statement to Colorado Community Media said the county would pay the upfront cost of $17,400 for Laydon to attend.
“Commissioner Laydon is applying for grants and scholarships to offset the cost of participation and reimburse the county. What is not covered by grants or scholarships, he will pay the remaining cost personally,” the statement said.
Asked whether he still plans to reimburse the county for the $17,400 cost of attending the program, Laydon said, “On your question I found that most of the entities that provide reimbursement for the program represent special interest groups and agendas that I don’t wish to be beholden to. Although the county already fully approved the entire tuition, I am also personally reimbursing every citizen who wants it the entire cost to them for me to attend. I am also offering a free experiential course for them to attend and personally get the benefit of what I learned.”
Laydon says it cost members of the public a nickel for him “to go to the world’s foremost public policy institute to improve my leadership as chairman of our board” of county commissioners.
Asked about how he thinks the total cost would spread out across the county's population, Laydon said a calculation "landed at about 4.6 cents."
“I will also have (change) on hand for every citizen that wants a direct reimbursement,” Laydon said.
The county touted Laydon’s acceptance to the Harvard program in May.
“As elected officials, we work for you,” Laydon said in a news release at the time. “As we continue to confront challenging times together, it’s important for your leaders to keep developing our skill set and improving. I’m grateful for this exceptional opportunity to learn from the world’s top local government and leadership experts.”
A “county commissioner colleague of Commissioner Laydon’s from Arapahoe recommended he attend, adding that it was one of the best programs she had ever attended,” the county said in a statement.
While Douglas County has sent senior staff members to the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program in the past, this was the first time a Douglas County commissioner has attended the program, according to the county.
“Our Douglas County culture values continuing education for its elected officials and staff, believing that continuing education among us is an investment in those we serve,” the county’s statement continued.
In a statement in late August, Lora Thomas, one of Laydon’s fellow Douglas commissioners, took issue with him not paying the county back.
“Despite Laydon’s promise to reimburse Douglas County taxpayers for his personal trip … he has yet to remit any amount in repayment since his return in June,” Thomas’ statement said.
“Gaslighters like Lora Thomas are good at distraction,” Laydon said in reaction to Thomas’ criticism.
Laydon and fellow Commissioner George Teal have taken several steps to reprimand Thomas in recent weeks for what they say is behavior inappropriate for a county commissioner. Laydon and Teal’s actions included a vote to censure — or formally disapprove — of Thomas.
See Colorado Community Media’s coverage of those actions and what led up to them at tinyurl.com/CommissionerVotes.
“Those I represent have been highly congratulatory and supportive of my selection to study at the Harvard Kennedy School and haven’t fallen for petty, politically motivated rhetoric,” Laydon said.
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