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Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.

Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, Twitter @CouyGriffinC4T , 7/10/20

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The Otero County Commissioners have had enough of Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin.

Of the many agenda items concerning the commissioner on the April 8 agenda, the item that generated the most contentious discussion was the ratification of a press release that Commissioners Gerald Matherly and Vickie Marquardt — both Republicans — sent to media calling for Griffin’s resignation. Marquardt and Matherly, along with Attorney General Hector Balderas, have asked Griffin to resign following his Jan. 17 arrest in which he was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority by federal authorities for his participation in the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol building.

Matherly was clear about his position, “We have gone through many days of drama, with our staff and my office. I’ve received threats myself because of your actions. This is office supposed to be taking care of county business, and I don’t think you should be using county property for Cowboys for Trump business and filming personal videos. Every time we have county meetings, it turns into a meeting about Couy Griffin’s personal life, and has nothing to do with county business.”

Marquardt didn’t hold back either, “How many hours do you think you actually spend on county business each week? You generate hate that rains down on this county and we have to deal with it,” she said. Griffin said that everything he did under the auspice of Cowboys for Trump was for the good of the county. “It was to represent the conservative values of Otero County.”

At one point, all three commissioners got into a heated argument as the public watched. Griffin argued the press release violated the Open Meetings Act since the release was a shared opinion between two public employees signed on county letterhead and sent while he was in jail in Washington, D.C. without holding a publicly scheduled meeting. The commissioners said they submitted individual opinions to county legal staff who wrote the press release, which they then signed.

Griffin claimed the release was also slanderous because it labeled him as a racist. “I don’t think by saying if Black people want to play a Black national anthem they should go back to Africa is a racist statement. I think if you want a White national anthem played you should go back to Europe,” said Griffin. Griffin lived for several years in France playing a cowboy character entertaining guests at Disneyworld Paris.

The meeting adjourned for lunch with Commissioner Marquardt and Matherly ratifying the request to have Griffin resign. The commissioners do not have the authority to remove Griffin on their own since he is an elected official. According to state law, the county would need to hold a recall vote or Griffin would need to be removed by a judge. Local voters have initiated that process.

The county then took up the much-publicized motion Griffin introduced to open Otero County 100 percent to all businesses, regardless of red or green status set by the State Department of Health. “I hope the whole state opens, not just the county. If we just have Otero County open, we’ll have a target on our back, and we’ll go back to red. I don’t agree with pitting our county sheriff against the state police who are enforcing the health order,” said Marquardt. Currently, Otero County is in yellow status.

“I’m trying to keep from making people feel like if they don’t wear a mask, they’ll lose their job. We can defend a person’s individual rights. We are elected to defend a business’s right to open or to not wear a mask; we swore an oath to the country’s constitution, not to the state. What the governor is doing is tyranny and it’s communism,” said Griffin.

The measure to reopen Otero County was voted down 2-1. Griffin was the only yes vote.

Six hours into the meeting, Griffin’s fight with county administration was far from over. County Attorney Michael Eschelman informed the board he could no longer represent Griffin because it was a conflict of interest. Eschelman said Griffin had threatened his job, and Griffin had stated he would be subpoenaed for information on the press release sent by the commissioners asking for his resignation. Eschelman said he filed a formal complaint against Griffin, claiming that he suffered panic attacks after interactions with Griffin and would often go home crying. The complaint is now under investigation.

The Attorney General’s office, meanwhile, said it’s own investigation into his misappropriation of public funds is ongoing, and proceedings to remove Griffin are still underway.

Aside from his ongoing troubles on the commission, the C4T leader is awaiting trial for his involvement in the Capitol riots. On April 7, a federal judge approved Griffin’s request for his firearms to be returned. He claims his family is in danger since his arrest, and he needs them for protection. Per the modified conditions of release, Griffin is not allowed to carry a firearm outside of his home.

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