Mayor Steve Bach said Wednesday that El Paso County Commission Chair Amy Lathen asked him to subordinate his authority to the county during the Waldo Canyon fire.
“At one point I was asked by the county commissioners if I would sign a document that would basically subordinate the city’s authority if the fire came into the city. I declined to do that,” he said during the Mayor’s Counsel meeting.
In an interview afterward, Bach said he brought up the issue because city officials were talking about “lessons learned” from the fire.
“I’m not sure why that question was asked” by the county, he said.
“The reason I brought that up today … is we need to have a, frankly, a playbook. We need to have a game plan for matters like that,” he said.
Lathen said it was “categorically untrue” that she asked Bach to subordinate his authority to the county.
“In no way, shape or form was it ever asking the city to hand over authority to the county. Ever,” she said.
“That’s ridiculous. That’s ridiculous,” she added. “We were trying to coordinate everything through unified command, and we were learning as we were going along.”
Lathen said she called the mayor the night the fire started and invited him to go to the emergency operations center, where they were signing a “delegation of authority.”
That delegation of authority assigns authority to a unified command and “enables” emergency fire funds, she said.
“The city, they had a choice to do whatever they wanted to do, but it was in their best interest to sign that delegation so that the cost of the fire goes through that federal process. It had nothing whatsoever to do with county taking control. I’m kind of surprised because he understood that the next day” and signed the document, Lathen said.
Here’s video of an interview with the mayor: