LOVELAND - A Loveland shop owner claims she is the victim of slander from a Larimer county commissioner after comments she made regarding a proposed county construction project.
Jackie Marsh, owner of Rabbask Designs, has been outspoken about the proposed construction of a Larimer County building in downtown Loveland. The building would include a probation center and a mental health rehabilitation facility.
At a recent city council meeting, and on social media, Marsh denounced the plans saying that a downtown location would be "inappropriate" and a "threat" to downtown businesses. She proposed that the county instead choose a location near the Loveland police station and courthouse.
"I believe public safety is at risk," said Marsh. "I believe business owners are at risk and beyond that if we get labeled as a place that's unsafe, people won't come and shop."
Marsh says soon after she announced her opinion, Larimer county Commissioner Steve Johnson called her out on social media. On Johnson's County Commissioner Facebook page he posted the following statement:
"So sad to see a local Loveland, CO business downtown, waging a slanderous and bigoted campaign against locating the County building in downtown Loveland by characterizing those seeking mental health treatment and probation services are undesirables we don't want to bring downtown (adult and juvenile probation have both been downtown for years without incident, but never mind the facts). I will never frequent such a discriminatory business, and will always defend and serve all the citizens and clients of County Government in the most efficient, safe, and convenient manner. I will speak out against such bigotry and profiling at every opportunity, despite continued threats against me from this business. We can have an informed discussion of what's in the County Building, no decisions have been made, but to threaten, stigmatize, label and harass people and accuse county officials of corruption like this business has and is doing is not acceptable. I lived through the 60's and saw far too much of that."
Marsh says she believes she never said anything slanderous or bigoted, and was simply exercising her right to express her opinion. She says Johnson is now using his status as a county commissioner as a "bully pulpit" to cast her business in a negative light.
"I believe in rehabilitation, I believe in people with mental health issues getting the support the need. I just believe that the people at the courthouse and police station are better suited to handle it than we are," she said.
Commissioner Johnson was out of state at the time of our interviews but issued the statement below throughFacebook
"She (Marsh) needs to be responsible for the statements she made in public clearly stating she did not want these kind of people, those on probation and those in mental health programs downtown. I find that kind of profiling to be deplorable and will speak out against it at every opportunity. When you make those kinds of statements you have no right to be surprised when people call you out on it. She's being heavily criticized in the community especially by further stigmatizing mental illness."
(© 2015 KUSA)