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Scott Gessler Didn't Mistreat Ex-CFO, Say Secretary of State's Office Employees

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Scott Gessler in a photo from his Facebook page.
Earlier this week, we shared the story of Heather Lizotte, the former chief financial officer for Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office. Lizotte, who still works there but in a demoted position, has accused Gessler of harassing and retaliating against her after she "began to push back on the financial mismanagement" she reportedly saw in the office.

Since we published the story, we've heard from one current employee and one former employee who both say that Lizotte's version of events isn't true. They never saw Gessler harass her, they say. Instead, they believe Lizotte was demoted because of her work performance.

See also: Secretary of State Scott Gessler Accused of Harassment, Retaliation by Ex-Office CFO

As we recounted in our original post, Lizotte was demoted in June. She claims that her demotion was the result of gender discrimination and retaliation for testifying before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission and a Denver grand jury about Gessler's use of the office's discretionary fund, and for concerns she raised about how the office was using federal grant funds.

But a document signed by Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert gives different reasons, including that Lizotte abruptly left the office in December 2013 on sick leave without giving her staff any direction. Lizotte claims that she left because Gessler treated her "so aggressively that she became frightened and seriously ill" and that she did brief her staff on how to handle the meetings scheduled during her absence.

The document also mentions several concerns with Lizotte's work performance, including that she inaccurately reported financial data, improperly allocated revenue, allowed an important contract to expire and failed to track grant spending.

In early 2014, Staiert hired the accounting firm Clifton Larsen Allen to review some of Lizotte's work. (Staiert was designated to handle an investigation after Lizotte filed a workplace violence complaint against Gessler and his chief of staff. The Mountain States Employers Council investigated Lizotte's claim and found no wrongdoing on the part of Gessler or his staff.) The accounting firm issued a report in March that said, among other things, that Lizotte "offered no written explanation" for an approximately $2 million difference in annual projected revenue between October and December 2013. Lizotte, meanwhile, claims that it's not uncommon for her department to revise the yearly budget as more information becomes available.

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A screen capture of Suzanne Staiert on television.
But Ryan Moyle, who worked for Lizotte from April 2011 until he left the department in November 2013, says that it seemed to him that Lizotte was in over her head. "In my experience, we were doing a lot of her work," says Moyle, who was a budget analyst.

Moyle says he never saw Gessler mistreat Lizotte; instead, he was "supportive" and "patient" with her. However, Moyle recalls Lizotte saying things that made it clear she didn't see things the same way. "She would always make comments about how it was a boys' club and the men didn't respect her," Moyle says.

Moyle says those comments contributed to him leaving the office. "It created this environment that me being a man, if she took anything I said out of context, I was fair game for her to think I was discriminating against her," he says. "As a result, I would never question her. I always kept the peace."

Moyle says he's speaking out because he questioned Lizotte's claims against Gessler. "I read the article (published on this blog on Tuesday) and didn't think the allegations were true," he says. "That is not what I saw."

Deana Wiedemann, an account tech who worked under Lizotte for eight years, agrees. "It's been a rough road to work with her," Wiedemann says in a conversation facilitated by Gessler's office. "Nothing has been consistent with how she makes decisions."

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Heather Lizotte in an image from Facebook.
Wiedemann says Lizotte's leadership style caused a tense environment, and she questions Lizotte's competency: "At one point, she had a very strong staff and I felt she was using her accountants and budget analysts to do her work."

Like Moyle, Wiedemann says she never saw Gessler harass Lizotte. "She's been treated well," Wiedemann says. However, she adds that Lizotte "would often comment after meetings that nobody was listening to her because she's a woman."

Staiert, the deputy secretary of state, also spoke with us after Tuesday's story was published. She says after having filed a sexual harassment complaint herself at her previous job as Littleton city attorney, she would not tolerate anything similar in her current position. "We do not discriminate in this office," Staiert says. "I have spent my entire career stopping that kind of behavior."

Furthermore, she says the decision to demote Lizotte was not retaliatory. "She wasn't a whistleblower," Staiert says; the demotion was based entirely on concerns with Lizotte's work performance, including those addressed in the third-party accounting firm's review.

"We promote an environment where people are comfortable," Staiert says of Gessler's office, "not an environment where people are fearful."

Laura Schwartz, one of Lizotte's attorneys, says that Lizotte disagrees with the statements made by the other employees but does not want to comment on them further. Adds Schwartz: "These people who are coming out against Heather are the very people who want to stay in touch with a powerful person. And Gessler is."


Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com


My Voice Nation Help
49 comments
DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Why are so many Repuglycans so damn corrupt and dishonest? 

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

Now here is a stupid bitch who would fail the personal responsibility test.


She is no doubt a whiny, self-loathing, nothing is ever her fault, worthless, loopy, loony liberal. 

rjt1019
rjt1019

Let's put this $2M mistake into perspective. This isn't full State or Federal sized budgets we are talking about. The Secretary of State's office budget for fiscal year ending in 2013 was just shy of $20M. Lizotte claims that budgets are revised all the time at the last minute and OK, yes, maybe a few $100K is reasonable. But a $2M boo boo out of $19M! Not to mention the other fiscal obligations she dropped the ball on. Then she jumped ship, left work, and claimed to be traumatized just so she didn't have to fix it???!!!! As a taxpayer paying her salary that is insane... She isn't an elected official and if she's that incompetent of a CFO, someone needed to cut the cord. Seems like Ms Lizotte is taking advantage of some bad press on Scott Gessler to get herself a nice settlement... Sorry Ms Lizotte, but at least some the public isn't blind enough to give our tax dollars to an extortionist...

brookly.k.bailey
brookly.k.bailey

Much better reporting. Lizotte seems overly sensitive when her superiors ask her to do her job and account for discrepancies ( to the tune of almost $2 million) in revenue. Odd that she thinks it's a boys' club when Gessler chose a female to serve as his Deputy. Most employees leave jobs because of their supervisors and not because of the work. Sounds like at least one of her employees felt the same way. Yep, pretty sure this is a perfect example of The Peter Principle.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

Conservatives:  Always witch hunting others, always full of excuses about their extensive corruption. 

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@fishingblues Failure to take responsibility?  Conservative.  Witch hunting?  Conservative.  Mental failings?  Conservative.  Liar?  You.

rjt1019
rjt1019

@DonkeyHotay Quite possibly true but it doesn't have anything to do with this article.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@rjt1019 Except it's just another republican abuse of power.  A republican abusing power is so common, it really isn't news.  That's just what you get with republicans.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@brookly.k.bailey That or just one of MANY examples of republican abuses of power.

It's funny how the conservatives witch hunt endlessly, yet get all baby hurt when they get caught again and again.  What"s really funny is when people like you attempt long winded rationalizations of that corruption.  Now THAT"S funny.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@muhutdafuga 


The mutt <=== obese, stupid, ignorant and ugly.  It is no wonder you are a man-hating bull-dyke.  



rjt1019
rjt1019

@DonkeyHotay In other words, you unfortunately have no facts about this situation and are simply a blog trolling fool... Roll on son... you obviously have nothing relevant to say on the conversation regarding this article. At least 2 independent companies have decided on the state's side. Let's face it we are BOTH wasting our tax payer dollars on the waste of space known as Heather Lizotte... Regardless of partisian politics.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@rjt1019 ... it illustrates Gessler's lack of character and impeaches his credibility, so he's probably LYING about Heather too.


Once a Rethuglycan scumbag, always a Rethuglycan scumbag

rjt1019
rjt1019

@muhutdafuga @rjt1019 And that is why your DC masters dropped you to the minors... "Sorry son you're just not ready for the national stage?". Does that sound familiar you paid blog troll?

rjt1019
rjt1019

@DonkeyHotay Um... the facts are in the article... Seriously are you retarded or just autistic. Either one, I'm OK with just please admit it... I think I firmed up everything you may or may not be asking for? Not sure but for a blog troll you sure are not good at your job...

rjt1019
rjt1019

@DonkeyHotay Jez... Now you just sound like a bitter blog troll... Let me guess... You aren't about "truth" just partisian politics... Yep "nailed it"... Just keep checking the left boxes on your ballot and you'll be just fine. At least that is what you masters in DC keep telling you. Blog troll...

patriotgames7_4
patriotgames7_4

@muhutdafuga @kevinwsnyder

"It's not that liberals are stupid, it's just that they know so much that isn't so." No truer words were ever spoken!  ~President Ronald Reagan


rjt1019
rjt1019

@muhutdafuga @kevinwsnyder Low class blog troll... Call 'em like I see 'em. I've seen you on other articles. Have your masters in DC bumped you up to 2 cents per post due to your persistence?

rjt1019
rjt1019

@muhutdafuga @rjt1019 I'm actually OK with your expertise on conservative lying... I'm sure you've done your research but are you educated on the lying that can be done by the common citizen regardless of political affiliation?  Apparently your vision is being clouded and you are all for wasting our tax dollars. Yes I use the term "our" even though we have many differences however I would like to think we have some things in common like the proper use of public funds/both of our tax dollars (if you are a resident of CO of course)...

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@patriotgames7_4 Cute of you to quote the only president in modern history that is worse than bush and nixon.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@rjt1019 @muhutdafuga @kevinwsnyder Sounds like you need glasses.

You or one of your brain dead cultist clones already used the paid post joke.  I think it was 10 cents last time.  It wasn't funny and they got owned.  So lets use the same response for the same joke.  Not you, the other joke:


If you yappy little cultists were getting paid 2 cents a post, you'd be getting SIGNIFICANTLY more than you're worth.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@rjt1019 @muhutdafuga Other than the error about my vision being clouded and your fantasy about my being for wasting money on things like wars for profit, your post isn't bad at all.

rjt1019
rjt1019

@muhutdafuga @rjt1019 @kevinwsnyder Actually that was me and not Kevin commenting on your incompetence in a different article... Maybe you should get your senders on track, but that must be hard when you are trolling all of the local blogs.Funny but you actually get paid for this! That is awesome but you have already proven that you are nothing but a blog troll and not swayed by any fact, LIBERAL or not.Unfortunately you are nothing but a paid blog troll... Roll on... BTW, where are all of you posts on the international and national news sites... Oh... I guess they all "owned" you and you got demoted to minors...

rjt1019
rjt1019

@muhutdafuga @rjt1019 Seriously, I honestly don't care about partisan politics. Wars for profit/politics is an argument we may have more than you think in common but it's not appropriate for this stage. I've simply been trying to point out the injustice that has been going on in this situation. Yes, politicians lie on both sides of the fence but this isn't a politician. It's an employee that WE are paying for. Protectionism in state and federal government has gotten out of control on both sides of the fence and it needs to be reigned in by us the voting public.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@rjt1019 @muhutdafuga @kevinwsnyder Since you are all part of a cult collective, as far as I'm concern, you are both part of the same cancer.

Thank you for attempting to keep up with my every comment.  I can't blame you for your failure to keep up.  You just aren't up to the task.  Now try again, but this time try to think first.

By the way, I E-mailed some of our "discussion to a friend...on behalf of both my friend and myself, thank you for being so limited that we both got to laugh at you.

rjt1019
rjt1019

@muhutdafuga Wow you are one depressing blog troll... Seriously can you reply with ANYTHING substantial. What a waste of money you are for your DC masters... Roll on son... Nothing to see here...

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@rjt1019 @muhutdafuga You failed.  Try again, or better yet, cut your losses and concede.

You are right about one thing, there was nothing to see in your post, but it does give me the chance to ridicule you again.

But don't be sad, you had one post that wasn't completely idiotic, it was only partially idiotic.  That's better than most conservatives.  I'm through for the evening.  If you're going to keep on posting, take a little time to think and maybe even use some facts.  That will make this more interesting for both me AND the good readers of WW.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@rjt1019 @muhutdafuga See, you make a good post then you ruin it with drivel like this.  The paid post joke wasn't funny the first two times.  Tell you what, I won't burn you on this on if it makes you feel any better.

rjt1019
rjt1019

@muhutdafuga @rjt1019 Yeah, I read this first before I replied but what the hell give it you're best shot... I'm an amatuer at this but you and Donkey have sort of made it fun... in a strange, sadistic way:).

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@rjt1019 @muhutdafuga Sorry to disappoint, but I appreciate your honesty and your backhanded compliment.  I hope you stick with this.

rjt1019
rjt1019

@muhutdafuga @rjt1019 Trust me it's not a truce:). I really am an actual independent who doesn't just check the boxes down the side of a ballot, I do my research. That is what has us (as a country) in this position, both domestically and globally (of shitting the bed when we are called upon in either situation). It's time for folks to think with logic, do their own research, and vote for the best person for the job rather than relying on partisian politics to define their ballot. I know you'll probably respond with some sort of blast from past experience but I could be wrong. You haven't ceased to amaze me so far, who knows?

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@rjt1019 @muhutdafuga I don't want a truce, you are a worthy opponent and I welcome that.


rjt1019
rjt1019

@muhutdafuga One complaint to the site, I would love nothing more than to invite this gentleman for a beer but I can't privately. There isn't any private communication option on this site for anything.... Other than public communications. That is a problem as having a beer with a dude that I can have some really relevant conversation with is important (um and yeah a beer.) That is one flaw with the My Voice system. Please figure this one out, all of the national sites have this option but for some reason local sites don't. Please talk to/quesion             your IT admin. Thanks!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@rjt1019 ... if you want a girlfriend, join a dating site, jackass.



rjt1019
rjt1019

@DonkeyHotay @rjt1019 Yep troll style... So Blog troll are your DC masters looking for you? You apparently went missing while you were at your "real" job. Um tending bar were we? Make a good cocktail? I'll bet you do!

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@rjt1019 @DonkeyHotay


The donkey boy does not have a job,he lives in a box and holds up a sign on any number of corners in Capitol Hill.


The mutt is a bull-dyke and despises men (and herself).


Glad  I could help. 

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@fishingblues @rjt1019 @DonkeyHotay Thank you, fishingforyounghairlessboys, for helping by showing your failure to have a though for some time.  Delusions don't count.Hairless, you are NOT a worthy opponent, just a silly little gnat.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@fishingblues @muhutdafuga @rjt1019 @DonkeyHotay 

It's funny when you get so frustrated that you spew a post that does a better job of diagnosing you as a fool than I ever did.  Spew away, fishingrainbow, spew away.

Your delusions prove that you live in a fact free universe.

If you listen reeeeaaaaalllllll hard, you can hear the rest of the board laughing at you, as I laugh at you now.

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