Citizens group questions Grand County attorney’s letter
February 4, 2015
A self-proclaimed citizen's transparency group has raised questions about a letter from Grand County Attorney Jack DiCola regarding County Commissioner James Newberry's double-dipping of mileage reimbursements.
The group, Citizens for Transparency in Grand County Government, first brought to light last year that Newberry had charged both the county and the Colorado River Water Conservation District, of which Newberry is board president, for the same mileage to attend district meetings in Glenwood Springs.
The 5th Judicial District Attorney's Office is investigating Newberry to determine if any criminal conduct occurred.
Group spokesman Chas McConnell questioned the board at its Feb. 3 meeting about a Dec. 19, 2014, letter from DiCola to Jacob Scott, an investigator with the 5th Judical District Attorney's Office.
The letter states that it is both DiCola and the board's opinion that Newberry did not violate the law or county policy.
McConnell's questions focused on why the county attorney had written a letter to support a single commissioner.
Commissioner Merritt Linke said that the 5th Judicial Distict Attorney's Office had solicited the information in the letter, and that the board had directed DiCola to draft the letter.
Linke said the board had shared the opinion that Newberry hadn't violated any policy or law, though he did disagree with Newberry's actions.
"I think that was wrong, and I think the policy needs to be changed," Linke said.
DiCola said that Newberry had first advised him that someone from the 5th Judicial District Attorney's Office would contact him.
"I didn't initiate anything," DiCola said. "It wasn't my idea."
Newberry and Linke said they did not see the letter before it was sent, and Linke said he didn't like the "exact wording" of the letter.
Linke said he would have omitted a portion of the letter that characterizes McConnell as having a "political agenda."
McConnell has run for Newberry's commissioner seat twice, losing both times.
Commissioner Kristen Manguso, who took office ilast month, said she did not agree with the letter "in any way shape or form."
McConnell cites 'intimidation'
McConnell also raised questions about what he referred to as "bullying and intimidation" of his family.
Specifically, McConnell referred to an open records request on McConnell's wife that DiCola had filed.
McConnell's wife is the business manager for the Fraser Valley Recreation District.
When asked about the request, DiCola responded, "I don't have to answer any of Mr. McConnell's questions that I don't care to about my private business."
Both Linke and Manguso told McConnell that they had heard about the request.
"You should take that up with Mr. DiCola," Linke told McConnell. "I encourage you to."
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.