Former chamber director wanted for felony theft | SkyHiNews.com

Former chamber director wanted for felony theft

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Former Grand Lake Chamber executive director Brad Taylor is wanted on felony theft charges for allegedly stealing $17,600 from the chamber of commerce over his two years on the job, equating to about 8 percent of the chamber’s annual budget.

Taylor, who left the state after quitting his job at the chamber on Jan. 21, is accused of not paying chamber bills totaling between $25,000 and $31,000, all the while writing checks to himself from the chamber account and cashing them, according to a document compiled by the Grand County Sheriff’s investigator in support of the arrest warrant and affidavit.

Taylor responded by email to a message left on his cell phone on Wednesday, offering no further comment:

“I was on a planned trip out of town when these charges were brought against me. I plan on returning to home to Grand Lake next month, as scheduled, to address these charges.”

The court document outlines how Taylor allegedly may have been able to embezzle thousands of dollars using QuickBooks by deleting several entries in the accounting software after their corresponding checks had been printed.

Taylor, who started at the chamber in June 2007, was solely responsible for picking up the chamber’s mail and paying bills as well as entering accounts receivable and payable into QuickBooks software so bills and payments could be tracked, according to the court document.

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Printing checks with the QuickBooks program – including payroll checks, payables and bank deposits – also fell under his duties.

Allegations against Taylor include unexplained expense reimbursements between $100 to $400 each, totaling in excess of $3,000, that were deposited into Taylor’s personal bank account.

Taylor also is accused of having printed and cashed two payroll checks for himself instead of one in each of eight different payroll periods, at a loss to the chamber of about $12,000.

Although payroll checks at the chamber require signatures of board members, the investigation concluded that Taylor had a certain board member sign one of his payroll checks, then another sign the other he had printed. For this reason, duplicate payroll checks were not detected. Five chamber board members had been authorization to sign payroll checks during the time period in question.

The investigation ruled out Taylor’s possible oversight on this matter, since the two payroll checks to himself were printed on the same day or within two days of one another, “making it unlikely that Taylor had forgotten that he already printed a check and had been paid for those periods,” reads Sheriff’s Investigator Leo Piechocki’s report.

By comparing QuickBooks files to bank records, the investigation found that Taylor made other random unauthorized payments to himself, then deleted them in QuickBooks, according to the report.

When Taylor resigned, he allegedly convinced the chamber board that he had been receiving his payroll checks two weeks in arrears from when he first started working for the chamber, and that he was owed a final check of $1,923.

The chamber board authorized the payment to Taylor, but further research conducted by Chamber President Barb McElroy revealed that his salary was not in arrears after all, and a bank hold was immediately placed on that final check, according to the report.

McElroy, who served as the chamber’s vice president during most of Taylor’s alleged financial indiscretions, said board members “were too trusting” of the director, and the chamber’s treasurer failed to diligently reconcile the books, she said.

Board members were told and believed that the books were in a state of confusion, she said, but did not jump to the conclusion that there was any possible criminal activity.

“It was a real shocker,” McElroy said.

In moving forward, more Chamber checks and balances are being put into place “to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again,” McElroy said. “We’re moving to the future and getting our feet back on the ground.”

The chamber board has contracted for an official audit of the chamber’s books, estimated to be completed by mid-April.

Income to the chamber comprises membership fees, grants, advertising sales, special events fundraising and funds provided by the Town of Grand Lake.

Chamber income covers payroll, salaries, marketing for the town and operation of the visitor’s center.

In December 2009, according to statements gathered by Piechocki, members of the board “expressed concern about receiving phone calls from various people, stating that the chamber was not paying bills that were due.”

In early January, the board had decided to restrict Taylor’s duties and put him on probation for a year, but before he learned of the terms of the probation, Taylor sent a resignation letter to the board by email.

He later let acquaintances know he was moving on to take part in the Haiti relief effort. Piechocki believes Taylor is in Chicago, he said on Wednesday.

There is a warrant out for his arrest, with bond set at $50,000.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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