“A senior Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager has been reinstated after a 12-week investigation into a whistleblower’s allegations that he tried to sabotage the voter-directed reintroduction of wolves — using tactics that included hiring an outside group to post videos on YouTube and Facebook targeting pro-wolf state commissioners.
CPW Northwest Region Manager JT Romatzke has served in the agency for 23 years and is widely regarded as a star game warden. He was put on paid leave during the investigation and resumed work in April.
Romatzke was the subject of an official complaint filed Jan. 18 with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, with 11-year CPW employee Randy Hampton accusing him of:
- Using state money to hire an outside group to anonymously post YouTube and Facebook videos casting negatively two pro-wolf commissioners appointed by Polis — Taishya Adams and Jay Tutchton. The complaint said Romatzke initially asked Hampton to “find a video editor,” saying “it couldn’t cost more than $5,000” and “we can find a way to pay it.” Hampton refused. In a Jan. 5 legally inadmissible taped phone call, which was shared with The Post, Romatzke told officials, “I’ve got an outside group doing just that. Don’t share that with anybody.” It’s unclear whether videos were posted.
- Instructing the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado to obtain information that Polis had sent to CPW commissioners urging them to move faster than the deadline for wolf reintroduction. Polis urged consideration of completing work sooner because lawsuits could force the federal government to reinstate endangered species protection for wolves.
- Guiding the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado to push anti-wolf perspectives in two northwest Colorado newspapers.
- Sharing details of targeting the commissioners with other managers in a conference call, according to a taped version provided to The Post by the national whistleblower law group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which represents Hampton.
Hampton’s PEER attorneys say Colorado leaders need to better protect whistleblowers so that they don’t face retaliation.
“The people of Colorado voted for wolves reintroduction and when civil servants reject the will of the voters and substitute their own they are forsaking the democratic principles our nation was founded on,” senior attorney Kevin Bell said.
“He reported his supervisor, the supervisor was placed on leave for a few months, and our client was assured by the state that either the supervisor would be removed, or he would be reassigned to another position so he would not have to work under the same person he reported afterwards,” he said. “Neither of those things happened. The state substantiated the allegations and then did nothing.””