Colorado Parks Department rocked by manager’s alleged ‘back of the bus’ remark to black employee

Colorado’s parks and wildlife division is in turmoil after a black employee accused two white managers of making racist remarks and urged the governor to have them fired from their jobs.

In a letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Alease “Aloe” Lee, the statewide partnership coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, accused Parks and Wildlife Director Dan Prenzlow, who has since been furloughed for making racially insensitive comments in front of hundreds of people. of people at a conference she organized.

She also urged Polis to fire Colorado Wildlife Council Chairman Dan Gates, alleging he was a “known racist.”

“I reach out to you as a traumatized, disappointed, upset, and extremely uncomfortable black woman and government employee,” Lee wrote.

In the letter, Lee said that earlier this month she attended the Partners in the Outdoors conference in Vail, which aims to “cultivate common ground, explore partnership best practices, and design collaborative solutions with diverse voices and stakeholders to conserve Colorado’s outdoor heritage. .”

But as a woman of color, Lee said she immediately felt uncomfortable and ignored by other attendees.

“The pattern was obvious,” she said. “White men weren’t a fan of having me at this conference, let alone leading it.”

It all came to a head, she said, when Prenzlow, who was appointed by Polis, stood in front of the conference room and shouted at her in front of 600 guests: “She’s here! At the back of the bus !”

Lee claimed she was so embarrassed that she ran into the arms of another black woman to cry over the insensitive comment, which she said referenced segregationist American history.

The next day, Prenzlow apologized to conference attendees, but Lee wasn’t there, Denver7 ABC reported.

“I made an insensitive comment for which I sincerely apologize,” he said, according to The daily sentinel. “I appreciate those who have highlighted my statement and how my comment speaks to painful realities that many have and continue to face. When we talk about intent versus impact, I have learned how quickly a statement may have a harmful and hurtful impact. I am sincerely sorry.

However, Lee said it was a lame excuse and that Prenzlow should know better at his age.

“Prenzlow’s actions are unacceptable as these incidents are entirely preventable. Anti-racism is more than a slogan,” Lee insisted in his letter to Polis. “I need you to boldly support and defend anti-racism efforts just as much, if not more, than the bold racists who have attacked me and continue to attack people who look like me behind closed systems and doors. This story took place in front of hundreds of community members, elected officials, organization representatives, state employees, and more.

Prenzlow did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Tuesday.

Lee also criticized Gates in his letter, alleging he used the n-word frequently. She said he brought in Shane Mahoney as the keynote speaker at the conference, and that the environmentalist “used racial undertones to ignore the importance of black and indigenous communities in the rich history that is history. American”.

“Not only is Dan Gates a danger to black and brown communities and their voices, but he is also in a position of extreme power and should be removed from office. He proudly wears the slogan ‘If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re on the menu’ on his hat,” Lee said in his letter to Polis. “His blatant hatred and unwelcoming attitude is the reason for which so many people of color were not comfortable attending the events in their entirety.”

The Daily Beast could not immediately reach Gates or Mahoney for comment.

Lee called for the immediate termination of Gates and Prenzlow in his letter to Polis, Colorado Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Gibbs, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Board, and the General Assembly. from Colorado. According to The daily sentinelmore than 270 people signed the petition on Monday afternoon.

“I am traumatized, exhausted, disappointed and extremely uncomfortable after this horrific experience,” Lee said.

On Monday evening, Gibbs released a statement announcing that Prenzlow had been placed on administrative leave.

“As Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, equitable and inclusive access for all to our programs, events, and outdoor activities is a personal priority and an integral part of DNR’s mission and culture,” Gibbs said. “The MNR has launched a fact-finding investigation to better understand what happened and to help inform any future action by staff or the department. We will follow our processes and procedures regarding complaints received associated with the conference.

Despite the investigation and Prenzlow’s furlough, The daily sentinel reported that Lee feared losing his job after the racial whistleblowing.

“They have so much power and I love my job,” she said. “I really want it to go fast so I can get back to work and do what I was brought here to do.”