By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
In the spring of 1992, a Romer aide called a meeting between Clem, his supervisor, Dr. Myers and members of Wellington Webb's staff.
"The purpose of the meeting ostensibly was to `iron out' the conflict between Dr. Myers and Mr. Clem," according to Clem's suit. "The implicit message given to Mr. Clem was that he was to bury the issues of improprieties" or "there would be another `meeting' if Mr. Clem raised the issues again."
And Clem did. He asked Myers why the Denver consortium had no quality-assurance mechanism in place, as required by the federal government. He suggested that a survey of consortium clients be taken or that the consortium form an advisory group of people infected by HIV.
Myers assured him such a survey would be conducted, Clem says, but it took repeated requests before a Denver General nurse was assigned to the task.
"Even then, it was not a survey of how clients felt about the treatment they received and whether they were happy with services provided by DHH," Clem says. "It just gathered basic demographic information--such as the number of clients served, their age, sex...that sort of thing."
Myers says he believes the survey met federal requirements and that Clem's complaints are just another attempt to harass him.
But Clem didn't reserve all his criticism for DHH. He questioned other consortium members about such expenditures as hiring outreach workers and paying for education campaigns. "Ryan White money is supposed to be used for direct care, not education," he says. He took Donna Good and the Mayor's HIV Resource Council to task for using $300,000 from the federal Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program to purchase and renovate apartment units on Jersey Street.
"Maybe six people will be able to live there," Clem says. "They would have gotten more bang for their buck by using the money as rent vouchers to keep people in their homes."
Her program includes rent vouchers, Good says, but the apartments "fill a need for people with AIDS who want the support of others nearby, who are going through the same thing."
In June Romer announced that the AIDS council's fiscal affairs were being transferred to the state health department, and that the rest of the council would soon follow.
"I thought the move was appropriate," says Clem. "That's why I was so surprised when Nolan called."
Despite annual job evaluations that rated Clem's performance as excellent or outstanding, Nolan told him he wouldn't be making the move to her department. Clem wasn't the only one caught off-guard by Nolan's announcement. Even though it was evident that Clem's actions had angered some members of the council, as well as DHH and health department officials, "I was surprised when it happened, and how it happened," Rush says. "I was on the executive committee, and everyone thought we had something to do with it. But it was a done deal before I even heard about it from Lance.
"We had previously been led to believe [by the governor's staff] that our bylaws were credible. After the fact, we were told...they weren't legal. The council has asked for a clarification, but we haven't received an answer."
According to Meg Porfidio, Romer's deputy chief of staff, when the decision was made to move the council to the health department, the director's role changed. "The position went from being an employee of the governor's office to a civil service job," she says. "The bylaws no longer applied, and it was up to the health department how to staff that position."
Clem may have criticized that department one time too many before the transfer, Rush says. "The bottom line was that under the new arrangement, a large portion of Lance's salary would have been paid by the health department. I think Pat Nolan decided that, given the past relationship, Lance would not make the change with the rest of the council."
Councilmember Elizabeth Nickles, who works with the Department of Corrections' AIDS programs in Canon City, had no idea Clem was in trouble. "I never had any difficulties with him," she says. "In fact, I found him to be very nice and extremely dedicated."
Western CAP's Nielsen was shocked by Clem's removal. "He's a wonderful human being," she says. "But there are an awful lot of politics in the whole AIDS funding issue."
Which is why several other councilmembers and agency heads say they're unwilling to be quoted about their own surprise at Clem's dismissal. They claim they fear the possibility of retribution by the health department, which now controls the Ryan White Title II money, and DHH, which cuts the checks for members of the Denver consortium.
Even Clem's opponents don't question his dedication to helping people living with the AIDS virus. "But the job entails coordinating the state's response to this epidemic," Harmer says. "And how can you coordinate if you're constantly criticizing everyone and everything? People like Dr. Myers, whose hard work was responsible for those first grants coming to the area, should be praised, not criticized."
This year Denver became eligible for its own Ryan White money when it crossed the 2,000-person threshold required for Title I funding. Those funds will be handled by Good and the mayor's council, which also administers the federal Housing Opportunities grant. All told, Good's group will control more then $4 million of the $6 million in federal AIDS funding coming to Colorado this year. "Early on, Clem had the biggest AIDS funding agency in the state," Good says. "Now I do. I don't think he liked that. But really, I had no hard feelings."