Our View: Common Sense Over Patronage

March 28, 2012

Just when we decided to give up on common sense prevailing over bureaucracies and the status quo, Grand Junction Republican State Representative Ray Scott decided to introduce House Bill 1329.

Colorado isn’t the only state with a quirky constitution and sometimes bizarre laws.  For one reason or another, the Governor of Colorado has the ability to appoint “Public Trustees” in the state’s eleven largest counties.  Somehow, some way, Colorado’s other fifty-three counties have managed to stay afloat having their county treasurer handle the duties of the “trustee.”

Scott’s bill would exempt Weld, Mesa and El Paso Counties from the governor’s patronage appointments and simply have the county treasurers in those counties assume the duties of that office.

Because the aforementioned duties amount to little more than shuffling papers related to foreclosures and real estate transactions, we believe county treasurers are more than up to the task of getting an intern or two to handle the (sigh) added workload.

The real test for this bill will be how TBD Governor Hickenlooper responds.  Will the quirky, beer-brewing geologist who talks a good game about transparency and fiscal restraint be willing to reign in his appointment power in this case?  Does Governor Hickenlooper trust county commissioners enough to let them manage the affairs in their counties without an appointed savior from Denver?  Have recent scandals involving public trustees accepting trips and gifts from attorneys that benefit from relationships with these public officials gotten Governor Hickenlooper’s attention at all?

Watching the drama unfold in Grand Junction between their Trustee, long time Democrat operative Paul Brown, and fiscal hawk county commissioners Craig Meis and Janet Rowland underscores the need for this legislation.  In Mesa County’s case, the Public Trustee refused to move his office in to a county-owned building (because he likes his plush office on Main Street) until Representative Scott introduced this measure.

Mr. Brown’s opulence costs the taxpayers in Mesa County no less than $2,300 per month in rent and utilities.  Add this expense to Mr. Brown’s annual salary of $72,000 and you see very quickly why commissioners might rather put those funds to use hiring an extra sheriff’s deputy or two.

Representative Scott and his group of co-sponsors deserve credit for introducing this common sense measure.  As counties around Colorado continue struggling to balance their budgets every year it is our hope that more measures like this one are introduced to challenge the status quo and give taxpayers better value for their investment.

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