Commissioners, treasurer sound off
Steamboat Springs — The feud continued Tuesday between Routt County commissioners and Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn.
The commissioners invited Horn to an emergency hearing to discuss how to move forward in the wake of Horn’s decision to ask the Routt County District Attorney’s Office and the Routt County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a criminal investigation into actions taken by the commission to set up a Paypal account for the county’s building department.
District Attorney Brett Barkey followed up on Horn’s complaint, and no wrongdoing was found.
Horn said she was concerned about the account set up by administrative staffer Helena Taylor.
Taylor used Commissioner Doug Monger’s name as the contact for the account, although Routt County is the name on the business account.
Horn said she believed county funds were being deposited into a Paypal account under Monger’s name.
On Nov. 4, Horn said she contacted Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — a personal friend — for advice. Horn said she was advised to ask for an investigation.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Horn said the account should have been set up as “Routt County Building Department” and not “Routt County.”
Commissioner Tim Corrigan expressed frustration by what he felt was a lack of communication by Horn.
“Are we going through all this brain damage because we don’t have the right name on the account, and it could have been cured by you coming upstairs and asking us to get the right name on the account, and instead you went to the attorney general of the state of Colorado, you went to the district attorney of the 14th Judicial District and you went to the sheriff to rectify the situation instead of coming up here and having a conversation?” Corrigan asked. “Frankly, I’m losing trust in your office.”
Horn said she was also concerned because she did not know the Paypal account existed.
“I didn’t know someone went out on their own to open it up,” Horn said.
Commissioners accused Horn of lying and said her office knew about the account since the summer.
“Since May, you’ve met with us at least six times, and you never raised this complaint, and you contacted the district attorney,” Commissioner Cari Hermacinski said.
Horn was also quizzed by county attorney Erick Knaus.
“There appears to be and seems to be an issue of trust,” Knaus said. “This issue of trust is still outstanding.”
Knaus asked Horn about whether she knew the account had been opened, and Chief Deputy Treasurer Sherry Cure answered.
Cure said she knew a Paypal account had been opened, but she believed it was an account created by the city of Steamboat Springs to transfer money to the county.
“I want to work with you guys and find a conclusion and figure out a way how we are going to make sure this gets done and done properly,” Horn said.
Horn on Tuesday still contended the money in the Paypal account was in Monger’s name. To get the money transferred to the county, Horn asked Monger to give her power of attorney.
Monger laughed and responded sternly.
“I ain’t assigning you power of attorney,” Monger said. “It’s not in my name. You’re crazy.”
Horn presented the commissioners with her department’s policies for handling accounts such as Paypal.
“This is great propaganda treasurer, but I’m sorry to disagree with your procedures on a couple of different grounds,” Knaus said. “One is the treasurer’s office does not make or establish county policy. That is the job of the county commissioners.”
Horn said she never tried to establish county policy.
“They’re for my office,” Horn said.
To move forward, county commissioners plan on adopting their own policies for accounts such as Paypal.
The money in the existing Paypal account will be transferred to escrow.
In a letter, Horn wrote the Treasurer’s Office has worked diligently to tighten security and eliminate risks to the county’s finances since December 2012. She reiterated this when answering the commissioners’ questions.
“When I walked into this office, we found someone who is being charged with 157 counts of fraud,” Horn said.
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