DENVER–State Rep. Ray Scott has a suggestion as to when the governor should appoint new public trustees: never.
Scott, who’s having an “I told you so” moment after attempting to eliminate the public-trustee program during the 2012 session, is urging the governor to delay any appointments to replace the 10 trustees who resigned or retired en masse earlier this month.
The move came after the trustees were accused of spending public funds on personal expenses, such as one trustee who charged her car payments and satellite radio to her office, according to articles in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and The Denver Post.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he will replace the trustees within 45 days of the July 10 resignations, but Scott wants him to wait until he can propose legislation to eradicate the appointed trustee positions in January.
“The voters of Colorado deserve the end to these patronage jobs which act outside of the oversight of local government,” said Scott in the July 13 letter. “Voters deserve to know their government officials are not enriching themselves at the expense of hard-earned taxpayer money.”
The 10 trustees, the only ones appointed by the governor, oversee the state’s foreclosure process in their counties. They approve their own expenses and may accept contracts without a public bidding process.
In 52 of the state’s 64 counties, the trustees’ job is performed by an elected county treasurer, whose budget is subject to approval by the county commissioners.
The Republican Scott sponsored a bill in the previous session that would have allowed counties with governor-appointed trustees to turn over their duties to the county treasurers.
“Instead of going along with Scott’s original bill, Hickenlooper’s office pushed for a compromise that called for more oversight, including annual audits and using the state’s competitive bidding process for purchases or contracts of more than $25,000,” according to the Sentinel.
Hickenlooper has responded by issuing guidelines for the trustees, including submitting conflict-of-interest disclosures and receiving approval for all purchases greater than $5,000.
“We all have to stand for good government,” Hickenlooper said in a statement after accepting the resignations. “That means maintaining the public’s trust and wherever possible avoiding even the appearance of any impropriety.”
Nine of the trustees resigned, and one retired. The deadline to apply for the vacant positions is July 25, and several of the trustees who resigned are reportedly planning to reapply for their jobs.
The trustees are in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, Mesa, Pueblo and Weld counties.
Scott, who’s seeking reelection in November from his Grand Junction district, said it would be more efficient to eliminate the position entirely rather than figuring out how to keep the trustees from misusing public funds.
“It is not often a politician gets the opportunity to do the right thing more than once,” said Scott. “Governor, here is your opportunity to undo the compromise bill and do the right thing for the voters of Colorado.”