Colorado Official Investigated Over 'bAck Of Bus' Comment

DENVER (AP) — The head of Colorado's parks and wildlife agency has been placed on paid leave after he reportedly referred to a Black colleague across a room as being “in the back of the bus” while on stage during a recent conference.

Dan Prenzlow will be replaced by acting director Heather Dugan while a “fact finding investigation” is conducted, Dan Gibbs, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which includes Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said Monday.

Gibbs did not explain what Prenzlow was accused of doing, only noting that he had received several complaints last week about “inappropriate comments and interactions” at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Partners in Outdoors Conference in Vail.

According to Alease “Aloe” Lee, Colorado Parks and Wildlife's statewide partnership coordinator and the conference's organizer, Prenzlow asked 600 attendees to turn their attention to her as she was standing in the back of the room, The Denver Post reported.

“There she is!” Prenzlow said, according to Lee, “in the back of the bus, Aloe!”

In an open letter to Gov. Jared Polis, Lee said people's heads turned in shock and she ran into the arms of another Black woman, crying. Lee also wrote about her experience encountering a lot of people in the outdoor conservation industry “who do not value a Black woman in power” and being often met with “a few cold stares and no warm hello back” during the conference.

Prenzlow could not be reached by telephone and did not respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday. In an email sent April 19, the day he is accused of making the comment, to conference attendees and reviewed by the Post, Prenzlow said he offered his “sincere apologies” for the “insensitive comment.”