Scratch another executive director from the troubled Colorado AIDS Council.
Known as the Governor's AIDS Council until it was transferred to the Colorado Department of Health last summer, the agency has been plagued by politics and a near-constant turnover of its top administrators. Now, after only two months on the job, the council's third director, Carol Bradwell, suddenly quit April 7. And a fourth director already has been hired--unfairly, according to a finalist for the job.

AIDS activists contend that politics chased Bradwell out. And Amy Sage, a spokeswoman for the health department, counters by saying Bradwell left for "purely personal reasons." Neither side is correct, according to Bradwell herself. It wasn't so much the politics at the health department that caused her to leave her job, she says, but Colorado politics in general.

"There's Amendment 2," she notes, "and a lack of funding for AIDS services from the legislature that leaves the state totally dependent on federal funding. There's not much of a commitment, and a lot of intolerance."

Bradwell took a job as director of the Office of AIDS Discrimination for the New York Division of Human Rights, the only such office in the country.

She had been hired only last January by Colorado. After a lengthy search process, Bradwell had been picked to replace former director Lance Clem, who was told by Health Department director Dr. Patricia Nolan not to bother packing his bags for the organization's transfer last July.

Clem had criticized the department's AIDS policies and questioned expenditures of federal AIDS services money by the Denver Department of Health and Hospitals and the Colorado AIDS Project ("Ill Will," March 16). He says he had argued that funds intended for the care of people with AIDS shouldn't support what he called "exorbitant" salaries of physician/administrators. A spokesman for DDHH in turn criticized Clem for lacking "diplomacy and tact" and for a lack of "consensus-building."

The council was formed in 1989 by Governor Roy Romer to advise his office on issues such as AIDS testing and health-care services. In 1991 Clem secured federal funding for emergency-care services for agencies throughout the state, with the council acting as the funds' administrator.

It still controls $2 million of federal emergency-care funds received by the state annually, but Nolan has said the Health Department plans to re-examine how the council authorizes expenditures.

In the meantime, the department has hired Karen Ringen, legislative director of the Washington, D.C., AIDS Action Council, which works with the federal government to develop AIDS policies.

Ringen, who already owns a home in Boulder, having decided "years ago that that's where I wanted to live eventually," says she sees her job in Colorado as acting as a "liaison between community activists and the Department of Health."

But John Sakowitz, a noted East Coast AIDS activist whose projects have gained national television exposure, says that although he was told he was a finalist for the position, it became clear the Colorado health department didn't want an activist on staff.

Sakowitz contends that the health department didn't even check his references. "I think they wanted someone complacent who they wouldn't have to fight with," says Sakowitz, who recently resigned his position with the Pikes Peak Foundation for Mental Health in Colorado Springs. "[Ringen's] credentials sound awfully establishment to me."

Sakowitz, who is gay, says he thinks the council should be headed by someone from those communities most "infected as well as affected"--gay males and IV-drug users--by AIDS.

But Ringen says she thinks of herself as an AIDS activist who can work well with bureaucrats, politicians and grass-roots organizations. She says she doesn't know a lot about the history of her position, but adds, "I'm not concerned. I really wanted the job and am very excited."

Clem had been hired in September 1990, four months after a few councilmembers decided on their own to oust his predecessor, Mary Lou Johnson. Other members of the council then passed bylaws that would prohibit such a purge again without the vote of the full council.

But the bylaws did not protect Clem when his position fell under the health department's authority. Clem sued Nolan and her department for violating his First Amendment rights regarding his criticism but agreed to drop his suit in exchange for another job. He is currently project director for the governor's Summer of Safety program to combat gang violence.


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