Citizen’s group: Newberry double-charged for mileage

Hank Shell
Grand County Commissioner James Newberry in under investigation by the 5th Judicial District Attorney for alleged wrongdoing.
Byron Hetzler file photo/ | Sky-Hi News

A Grand County citizens group has leveled accusations of “double dipping” for mileage reimbursement against a Grand County commissioner.

The group, Citizens for Transparency in Grand County Government, presented documents at the July 15 county commissioner’s meeting that appear to indicate Commissioner James Newberry had filed expense reports for the same mileage to both the Colorado River Water Conservation District and Grand County.

The group obtained the documents through open records requests to the county and the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

Newberry, who is the board president for the River District, told the Sky-Hi News on Monday that he didn’t think it was illegal, and that it wasn’t a large amount of money, though he did say that wouldn’t do it again.

He stated that he would pay back the money if asked.

Chas McConnell, spokesman for the group, said he believed the amount was over $3,000 during the last three years. Newberry estimated the money to be around $1,000.

Newberry was in Glenwood Springs for a Colorado River District meeting during the July 15 county commissioners meeting.

Chris Treese, a spokesman for the Colorado River District, said that the district didn’t have a position on the incident.

Directors can receive a fee up to $100 per meeting in addition to being reimbursed for expenses including transportation.

“One hundred dollars certainly doesn’t compensate them for a day of their time, but it is a statement that while serving the river district, they are serving the district and not whatever their other employment may be,” Treese said.

Though the group spoke during the public comment period, commissioners allotted them around five minutes to speak.

County Attorney Jack DiCola said the group had been instructed to schedule itself on the agenda, though McConnell said the group hadn’t been allowed onto any agenda.

Commissioner Gary Bumgarner said that the group had been scheduled on the next week’s agenda, though the group was never informed.

“We wanted an hour-long meeting because we only touched on a small amount of what we have and what we’ve found and what we’ve uncovered,” McConnell said.

Board agrees to fraud audit

During the meeting, McConnell also asked that the commissioners agree to a fraud audit, a request that it has made multiple times in the past.

The commissioners agreed to conduct the fraud audit, though they didn’t make an official motion to do so. In the past, the board of commissioners has denied that fraud audits exist.

Commissioners seemed to agree that the group would provide them with a list of CPAs who could conduct the audit.

McConnell told the Sky-Hi News that his group could possibly provide the board with the list at its July 22 meeting.

It’s unclear when the group will address the board of commissioners again.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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