The Mesa County Tea Party Splits Over One of Its Own

November 17 2010, 3:00 PM

Tea partiers certainly know how to cause a ruckus—not only outside their conservative circles, but also within. The latest local scuffle involves Craig Meis, a Mesa County commissioner, who argues that it is okay to break the law if it is a "nanny state" kind of law. Specifically, Meis challenged a ticket he received for allowing his 14-year-old son to operate his personal watercraft (state law requires him to be 16), fighting the case in court and predictably losing. But The Denver Post reports that the case has led to a "deep rift" in the local tea party, between those who see Meis, a member of the Western Slope Conservative Alliance Tea Party group, as a hero and those who see him as a lawbreaker who simply tried to get off the hook for a $52 ticket but ended up costing taxpayers money with his jury trial. "I broke the letter of the law. I didn't break the intent of the law, which is public safety," Meis said during a news conference, in which tea-party factions hurled insults at each other.

Making matters more contentious, the park officer who wrote the ticket claims Meis pointed out several times that he's a county commissioner who knows the local district attorney. Meis has subsequently written letters to fellow Republican officials and Mike King, the director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, lambasting the officer who wrote the ticket. As Face the State writes, Meis provides a template for "how not to weasel out of a ticket." Local tea-party organizers have called on Meis to resign, but he has rejected those calls, insisting that he never tried to sway the officer by mentioning his position in government. He even accuses a Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reporter of fabricating the "conspiracy," the Sentinel notes.