The Grand County Commissioners
are looking at the missing funds issue at
the county building department as two
There is the criminal investigation,
which Sheriff Rod Johnson said on
Tuesday he hoped to hand to the District
Attorney’s office at the end of March.
The District Attorney will look at the
sheriff’s investigation to determine if
charges should be filed or if a Grand Jury
investigation is warranted.
In answer to a question about a potential
conflict of interest with the county sheriff
investigating another county office,
Johnson said that his office, by state law,
is independent of the other county offices.
The sheriff is an elected official and is
charged with upholding the law.
Commissioner Gary Bumgarner
added that the commissioners, the district
attorney and the sheriff are separate
entities and they each take an oath of office
in which they promise to uphold their own
and independent statutory responsibilities.
After the criminal investigation runs
its course and criminal charges are filed,
Commissioner Bumgarner said, the
commissioners are going to conduct an
internal investigation to determine how
the alleged theft occurred. At that time,
management and accounting practices will
be evaluated and changed as necessary to
prevent a repeat of what the commissioners
have said is a loss of $500,000 in cash and
checks over a 12-year period.
Last October, the commissioners
issued a release in which they said they had
discovered the loss of checks in the building
department. At that time, according to a
statement issued on Tuesday, “The office
was emptied, computers seized, sheriff
notified, district attorney notified, the
sheriff began a criminal investigation
immediately. After determining that
all of the discrepancies ended up at one
desk, the person who sat at that desk was
On Tuesday, Commissioner James
Newberry said, “We took it very seriously
and we dealt with it right away. Let’s clear
up the confusion with the general public.
The rest of the employees are doing it the
right way. (The problem) is centralized in
one accounting area.”
When asked how the commissioners
found out about the missing money,
Bumgarner said that during the budget
process last fall, the building department
presented a budget with projected revenue
of $200,000 in 2014 but showed deposits of
approximately $20,000 in 2013.
That started the search that ended
in the ongoing criminal investigation.
Investigators found that the same person
who took the permits was also in charge
of the accounting of the funds for those
permits. “The mistake,” the commissioners
agreed, “was having one person take
the money and balance that against the
permits. We thought accountability was
in place and we trusted the people in that
The county’s cash handling policy that
was in place since 2005, County Treasurer
Christina Whitmer said, included the
recommendation that all departments
bring their cash receipts and checks to the
County Treasurer’s office on a daily basis.
Her office is, essentially, the bank and
deposits need to come to the bank to be
In an interview on Wednesday,
Whitmer said her office has detailed
records and photographic evidence of
every check that every department has
deposited in the treasurer’s office. She said
that the treasurer’s office is the bank for
county funds. It is not the responsibility of
the treasurer’s office to manage, balance
and audit the county’s funds.
When she sees a red flag, like checks
being held for a long period of time,
she brings that to the attention of that
department, the county finance director
and the county manager. She said she was
made aware of the building department
issue on Oct. 30 when she was asked to
trace a deposit.
Whitmer said she doesn’t want to
compromise the ongoing investigation but
she saw enough that day to want to take the
issue to the district attorney’s office.
The whole process of checks and
balances within the county offices, Sheriff
Johnson said on Tuesday, is the central part
of the investigation and will be part of the
findings that are turned over to the district
On Tuesday, the commissioners said
that Scott Penson, the head of the building
department still has his job. There have
been no problems identified with regard to
the plan check and inspection side of that
He is under probation which,
Bumgarner said, meant he didn’t get a
raise and has to meet certain requirements
during the probation period.
On Tuesday, there was also concern
expressed about checks for which there
may not be an accounting. Sheriff Johnson
said all of the checks that have been found,
have been cashed, an amount that was
Those people who were issued permits
but for which a check couldn’t be found
were sent letters last fall, asking them to
reissue a check.
According to Jack DiCola, “As a result
of that letter, the good people of Grand
County have written checks in good faith
and have paid $153,000.”
Also on Tuesday, the commissioners
said they are only looking to collect
money from late in 2012 until the
criminal investigation started in 2013.
Approximately $246,000 has been
identified as missing in 2013. Lurline
Underbrink Curran, county manager, said
the county is still working on collecting the
$93,000 that is still missing. The county is
not going to try and collect money from
permits issued prior to that time.
Underbrink Curran also said that, “Not
one personal or business check has been
wrongfully cashed by a third party.”