Image Link

Placeholder Picture
Commissioners Playing Shell-game with the Budget/Audit
By Susan Shick

Elbert County’s three elected commissioners are pretending to do their primary job of stewarding your tax dollars and hoping you don’t notice or care that they have failed. At their Oct 26, 2022 regular public business meeting they claimed there might be a public hearing on Nov 30, 2022 to show the draft 2023 budget. A consultant was hired two weeks ago to help the county prepare a draft budget, because everyone in the finance department has resigned or been fired. The demise of the department began back in May when the budget officer, Sam Albrecht, who was also the county manager, abruptly resigned or was fired. Prior to his departure he fired the top five female wage earners, all department heads or managers, plus two other females over an 18-month period. Red flags, here!

Now, without accounting for the tax dollars they spent in 2021, the commissioners are moving on to approve 2023 tax levies and spend more.

Here’s the problem. They missed the two key deadlines required for the development of a legitimate 2023 budget. Commissioners failed to deliver the 2021 financial audit by July 31, the statutory deadline. They failed to deliver the audit by Sept 30, after being granted a 60-day extension. They failed to produce the required 2023 draft budget AND “Notice of Budget” published in a local newspaper by Oct 15, as statutorily required.

The audit delivery fails resulted in the issuance of a delinquency notice by the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) two weeks ago and a tax withholding notice coming on Nov 1. We will soon learn from the county treasurer how much tax revenue will be withheld from the county’s spending authorities in November. All tax revenues will be withheld by the treasurer until the commissioners submit the audit to the state.

A draft audit report was provided to the commissioners but they refuse to approve it, forward it to the state, or show it to the taxpayers. It is not considered a public document until it is approved and sent to the state. Vendor payments on the county website show the commissioners paid $60,700 to the county’s auditor, Rubin Brown, between January and July of this year. That total may be incomplete as the county has stopped publishing the vendor payments on the website; figures for August and September are missing. Taxpayers were charged $73,650 for the 2020 audit.

What are the commissioners hiding and who are they protecting?

And, what are concerned taxpayers supposed to do? There are a couple of clues in state statutes, which I will summarize.

For a missing audit, there is no guidance for citizens unless fraud is suspected. But proof is hard to come by. Instead, citizens are directed to contact other suggested resources, including the independent audit firm hired by the county (Rubin Brown, for Elbert County) or their local law enforcement or local DA. Should the OSA not receive the audit, they have additional options including forcing an audit at county expense, and pursuing a fraud investigation with the state AG, then with the local DA, and ultimately with the court, where removal from office or employment is mandatory, if found guilty.

Placeholder Picture

The local government budget law tells citizens to file a protest of budget during the public hearing. So, “save the date” for the Nov 30 proposed 2023 public budget hearing. The state budget office requires that the budget include audited 2021 figures. Most likely, the commissioners will finally release the audit report to the state just ahead of the budget hearing, affording no time for the taxpayers to review that audit. Penalty convictions for violations of local government budget laws carries the same penalty as audit violations; removal from office or employment.

If the county fails to meet the Dec 15 deadline to adopt a 2023 budget that includes audited 2021 figures, along with accepting the certified mill levies from the counties 30+ taxing authorities, then the state will limit the 2023 budget to 90% of the current year’s budget appropriations.

If you are bothered by any of this, prepare a protest letter and send it to the commissioners, or bring it to the public budget hearing, whenever that may finally happen.

Show them you’ve noticed and that you care. Let us not find ourselves in the position of near financial collapse as occurred in 2014 when our auditor revealed our commissioners were routinely spending more than they were collecting in tax revenues. DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) revealed that the state had been withholding tax revenues for five consecutive years due to missing and late audits.

Commissioner Contact Info:
Chris Richardson, Dist. 1, 303-621-3132

Rick Pettit, Dist. 2, 303-621-3139

Grant Thayer, Dist. 3, 303-621-3114

Local government audit and budget laws may be found here:
Colorado Revised Statutes | Colorado General Assembly
Audit Law: CRS 29-1-601-608
Budget Law: CRS 29-1-101-115

Contact Local Government Audit Office at: 303-869-3000
or email:

Contact Local Government Budget Office at: 303-864-7744
or email:

Contact Rubin Brown, Elbert County Audit Firm: 303-698-1883