Colorado Parks & Wildlife director suspended after alleged “back of the bus” comment about Black employee
Department of Natural Resources puts Dan Prenzlow on paid leave while investigating comments at a Vail conference where the employee said she was traumatized by racism.
The Colorado Sun
The Colorado Department of Natural Resources placed Parks and Wildlife Director Dan Prenzlow on paid leave after a Black employee sent an open letter to Gov. Jared Polis complaining of racism against her and others at a Vail outdoors conference.
The letter by the employee, statewide partnerships coordinator Alease “Aloe” Lee, said Prenzlow tried to thank her for helping organize the sold-out Partners in the Outdoors Conference held at Vail’s The Hythe hotel on Apr. 19. As she stood in the back of the room, Lee said, “In a failed attempt to thank me, he exclaims on stage in front of 600 people ‘… there she is! In the back of the bus, Aloe!’”
Before the civil rights movement of the 1960s, many American cities had Jim Crow laws and practices that required Black passengers, for example, to give up their bus seats to white passengers and take seats at the back. Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks famously refused in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.
Lee’s letter to Polis and the DNR leadership said Prenzlow sought her out later and said “he wasn’t aware of the context of his words and that he didn’t mean any harm. I have never known the phrase ‘back of the bus’ to not cause harm to Black people.”
Lee is the organizer of the annual Partners in the Outdoors Conference, which gathers hundreds of local governments, businesses, conservation groups and advocacy organizations to discuss potential ways diverse groups can work together on natural resource protection. The one-day event featured several breakout sessions, a keynote luncheon and awards dinner. Prenzlow made the comment to Lee during the conference’s final moments.
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