One thing is certain: Douglas Bruce will miss every El Paso County commissioners meeting until early July.
He says he's going on vacation and that's about it. He won't say where he's going or what he's planning to do.
In fact, he's downright defensive when asked.
"It's none of your business," Bruce says. "I'm not going to tell you the people that I'm going to meet. That's silly. I don't have to check in with you. I'm on vacation."
Yet in the county office he shares with four other commissioners, the Republican author of Colorado's notorious Taxpayer's Bill of Rights has "made no particular secret about the fact that he's going to the Ukraine," according to Dennis Hisey, the commission chairman.
Bruce won't confirm any such visit to the former Soviet Union a place his idol, President Ronald Reagan, described during the Cold War as an evil empire. Bruce adds that his absence from the meetings is a non-story.
There's "no law against going on vacation," he notes, adding that other commissioners have taken time off from meetings.
While that's true, County Administrator Jeff Greene can't recall a commissioner missing so many meetings in one stretch.
"No other commissioner has ever missed that length of time," Greene says. "Commissioners may take some personal leave from time to time, but they always try to schedule that around the meetings."
Brucewill miss upcoming discussion on the preliminary 2008 budget, which is expected to be tight. He's known for frequently voting against his fellow commissioners, often citing a lack of fiscal restraint on the part of colleagues or perceived constitutional issues.
He brushes off concerns that he'll miss too much action, stating that commissioners usually pass measures he opposes anyway.
"There's always issues coming up," Bruce adds. "Some are important; some are not. Most of what we do is ministerial, trivial humdrum. We approve VIN numbers for ambulances. Can you imagine something so silly as that?"
Commissioners generally meet at least twice a week during most months of the year. In July and August, they adopt a lighter summer schedule. Their time off is "pretty much at the discretion of the commissioner," Hisey says.
Asked how much time he will take off this year, Hisey says, "On personal stuff, I guess I'll be surprised if I miss more than about three meetings all year."
Commissioners may vote to excuse Bruce's absences. If they decline, Bruce will face a $10 fine for each missed meeting under state law, Greene says.
Hisey expects Bruce to be excused as a courtesy, though he can't guarantee it. He sympathizes with Bruce's situation, saying the commissioner needs more time off because of the apparent international travel that's involved.
"It's a little different going to the Ukraine than going down to Santa Fe," Hisey says, "as far as the amount of time you need to do it right." firstname.lastname@example.org
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