Dan Prenzlow retires as Colorado Parks and Wildlife director following investigation

Colorado Parks and Wildlife director Dan Prenzlow retired Tuesday following a third-party investigation into an alleged racist remark he made toward a Black employee at an annual conference this spring.

Prenzlow, who’d been with the CPW since 1986 and became the agency’s director in 2019, had been on paid administrative leave since April, when conference attendees said he tried to thank a Black employee by saying, “There she is, in the back of the bus, Aloe!”

The remark, which harkens back to Jim Crow-era laws mandating Black people sit in the back of public buses, prompted the state to hire an outside firm, Investigations Law Group, to look into those comments and others made during the conference.

The results of that investigation, now complete, have not yet been released.

Prenzlow couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

The investigation also includes comments made by Aloe Lee, the employee targeted by Prenzlow’s remarks. Lee resigned Tuesday, a spokesman for Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, which oversees Parks and Wildlife, said in an email.

After Prenzlow’s comment this spring, Lee took aim at the director and others in state leadership in explicit language sent to all 600 conference attendees. Lee, who could not be reached Tuesday, also was placed on paid leave as the investigation got underway.

She previously called on Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado General Assembly in an open letter to fire Prenzlow and for Parks and Wildlife to review its whistleblower policies and to hire an external consultant to review employment hiring practices and pay disparities.

Heather Dugan, who’s been running the agency during Prenzlow’s absence, will continue as acting director, said Chris Arend, a Department of Natural Resources spokesman.

The agency will go through a process for filling the position on a permanent basis, he said.

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