In late November, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) called Social Security Administration (SSA) staff the equivalent of ne’er-do-well couch-potatoes as she raked a senior Social Security Administration official across the coals during a House Oversight Committee hearing.
SSA officials were “allowing delinquent employees to sit on their sofas at home instead of actually getting to work and doing their jobs,” Boebert told Oren “Hank” McKnelly, the executive counselor to the SSA’s acting commissioner, at the “Oversight of Federal Agencies’ Post-Pandemic Telework Policies” hearing on Nov. 29.
“Every employee, do you have the numbers of the hours that are submitted, are you counting how many times they’re logging into their computers and responding to casework?” Boebert continued.
The SSA has “systems in place” that give managers a real-time overview of what staff are doing at any given time, McKnelly replied.
“Additionally,” he said, “Our employees are required to be accessible to their supervisors, clients, colleagues, and external parties during work hours through a variety of means including instant messaging, video platforms, and telephone. They are connected to the workplace whether they are in the office or at home.”
Boebert’s Pueblo Office Closed for 13 Days Around Thanksgiving
Even as she spoke, Boebert’s office in Pueblo, the largest city in her current district, was empty.
In November, the doors to Boebert’s Pueblo office in the Thatcher Building were locked and the lights were out starting on Nov. 17, the Friday before Thanksgiving.
A note taped to the door said staff were “traveling to various meetings and appointments in the 3rd Congressional District.” The note listed a phone number to call to make an appointment, and the email of Cathy Garcia-Winder, Boebert’s regional director for southern Colorado. Then, it thanked anyone reading for visiting the office. It should have thanked people for getting to the door of the office, which isn’t really the same as visiting.
The Pueblo office was closed again Nov. 21, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but this time a different reason was offered: the office was shuttered for “Thanksgiving Week.”
A new note was taped to the door, wishing the reader a “Happy Thanksgiving” and informing them that the office was going to be closed until Thursday, Nov. 30, because — in addition to the extended Thanksgiving holiday — the staff would be attending a conference from Nov. 27-29.
But on Thursday, Nov. 30, a day after the conference had ended — and the day the office was supposed to reopen — it was still closed. It reopened the following day.
So, in total, Boebert’s Pueblo office was closed for 13 days around the Thanksgiving holiday — at least four work days, one day for traveling the district, three days at a conference, one day for Thanksgiving, and four weekend days. It opened Dec. 1.
Lengthy “Christmas and New Year Holidays”
Seventeen days later, on Monday, Dec. 18, a week before Christmas, Boebert’s Pueblo office was again closed, this time until Jan. 2, 2024. That’s a break of nine work days plus holidays and weekends, for a total of 15 days off.
“The office is closed for the Christmas and New Year Holidays,” read the note on the door, decorated with “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year!” art. “The Office will re-open on Tuesday, January 2. Please call 719-696-6970 to make an appointment or email: [email protected]. Thank you for visiting the office.”
Boebert’s Pueblo Office Closed Longer Than Offices of Other Colorado U.S. House Members
The offices of all other Colorado U.S. House representatives, Republican and Democrat, were still open on Monday, Dec. 18, after Boebert’s Pueblo office had closed for the holidays, according to staff who answered the phones at the seven offices on Dec. 19. All would stay open through Thursday, staffers said. Most would remain open through Friday, with the Castle Rock Office of U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) scheduled to close at noon Friday and U.S. Representatives Doug Lamborn (R-CO) Colorado Springs office and Brittany Pettersen’s (D-CO) Lakewood office to close all day Friday. All the eight U.S. House congressional offices were closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Boebert’s out-of-office note on the door before Thanksgiving contrasted with the staff presence in the offices of most of Colorado’s seven other congresspeople, whom the Colorado Times Recorder called the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Five of the offices were open, and two (U.S. Representatives Yadira Caraveo’s (D-CO) Greeley office and Diana DeGette’s (D-CO) office) said they’d be in the office the day before Thanksgiving, too. A staffer at Buck’s office said they were working remotely because they were moving to a new district office. The phones at one office (U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO)) went to voicemail.
Often Working in the Community When Office Is Dark, Says Boebert Staffer
Boebert’s district director, Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff, picked up the office phone when the Colorado Times Recorder called on Jan. 10, and said that, when the office is dark, she and her colleagues are often out in the community, working on constituent matters.
She said the “conference” referenced on the Pueblo office’s closure in November was a Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI) meeting. A Google search found that the nonprofit Colorado Counties, Inc. held its winter conference from Nov. 27-29. CCI says on its website that its purpose is to assist county commissioners, mayors, and council members, and encourage counties to work together on common issues.
District Offices’ Key Role
Like many other members of Congress, Boebert has several district offices and an office in DC. As of Sept. 30, 2023, she had 17 staff members on the books, including Navarro and Garcia, according to Legistorm.
One of the main responsibilities of a congressional staffer is to provide service to people back in the congressional district. They do this by cutting through bureaucracy to help constituents collect Social Security or other benefits; answering questions about government aid, such as student loans; assisting veterans as they deal with the Veterans Administration; keeping constituents informed of their representative’s or senator’s activities; and more.
The salaries of congressional staffers are paid for out of the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA), which can also be used to pay for travel, district office rental, stationery, and other office supplies. MRA funds come from the U.S. Treasury, which gets most of its revenue from taxes, including those paid by individuals.
Boebert will not be operating an office in Pueblo too much longer. She announced late last year that she’s running for a new Colorado congressional seat, Colorado House District 4 (CD4), which does not include Pueblo.
Other Republicans competing against Boebert in the June 25 CD4 primary election include talk radio host Deborah Flora, former state lawmaker Ted Harvey, state Representatives Richard Holtorf and Mike Lynch, Justin Schreiber, Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg, and businessman Peter Yu. The winner of the primary will almost certainly defeat their Democratic opponent in November’s general election, as Republicans have a double-digit advantage in the district.