Sheriff: Investigation lags due to mismanaged building dept. records
February 18, 2014
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — The investigation related to $500,000 missing at the county building department is being slowed due to a history of poor records and financial management, according to Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson.
Johnson said he was hoping to have a report to the district attorney by the end of the month, but he now doesn't expect to have the investigation completed until the end of March.
"It's an interesting case, I'll tell you that," Johnson said. "The management down there was so poor, and the files in such disarray, that we're poring through them a piece at a time."
Johnson and his staff have 12 years-worth of files to investigate, and he said that while $500,000 is the estimated amount that went missing, it's likely they'll never know an exact figure because of the inefficient record-keeping.
The sheriff also said it's likely a person associated with the building department will be charged with a crime, and so far, no one with the department has been cleared of wrongdoing, he said.
"We have one person that we will more-than-likely file criminal charges against," Johnson said. "But I have not cleared everyone (else) down there." Because of the poor records management at the building department, Johnson said by the end of his investigation, there still may not be enough evidence to clear anyone who worked there.
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Contractor Tom Larva of Grand Lake said he has personal experience with the department's "mismanagement." He applied for a contractor license he never received. He also paid $457 for a building permit, then received a letter from the county commissioners on Jan. 14 saying the department had "destroyed one or more checks" for Larva's permit payment and to "please reissue your check payable to Grand County."
But according to Larva, he had paid for the permit with cash. He had only written a check for the initial $50 application fee. Larva has receipts for the transactions, which say he used a credit card to pay both the $50 application and remaining $407 for the permit.
Larva went before county commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 18 to explain his case. Larva said both the commissioners and the county attorney told him that he'd be absolved and not required to make the payment again.
"Apparently there are some other guys out there like me, apparently a lot of other guys like me," Larva said.
He reported his case to the sheriff and said he also mentioned his missing contractor's license.
"(Sheriff Johnson) said they found stacks and stacks of stuff like that … (that the building department) never got around to mailing out," Larva said.
Maureen Bosshard with Mountain Top Builders also confirmed around 12 of their checks went missing at the building department and were never cashed. She said the sheriff's department contacted her, asking for a record of the checks and which permit they belonged to.
"We did not suspect anything was going on, we've always been dealt with very professionally at the building department," Bosshard said.
The building department collects fees from builders and contractors for additions and new construction. The fees are calculated based on the value of the property or improvement, and payments can be made by cash, check or credit card. The department also collects fees to license contractors each year.
Joe Gould, president of the Grand County Builders Association, said he hasn't heard any complaints from contractors about the county building department, and doesn't know about any other cases of missing payments or licenses.
"It's important to say, our relationship with the building department has been nothing but positive," Gould said.
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.