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Grand County treasurer questions seizure of records

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com
Grand County Commissioner James Newberry
Sky-Hi News file photo | Sky-Hi News

A row has erupted between the county treasurer and county attorney over the seizure of a hard drive from the treasurer’s office.

County Treasurer Christina Whitmer said the Grand County Information Systems Department was in possession of a hard drive containing confidential payment information and records from the treasurer’s office when the county attorney’s office took control of the drive on Aug. 28.

Whitmer said the hard drive was seized while she was absent and without consulting her.

A copy of the hard drive was made and it was returned to the information systems department, Whitmer said.

The information systems department was assisting the treasurer’s office in working through a software issue.

Whitmer was apprised of the action in an Aug. 28 email from County Attorney Alan Hassler.

In the email, Hassler wrote that he was contacted about missing records in the treasurer’s office “because of the potential legal implications in loss of these records,” and directed that the hard drive be secured.

“I understand that, so far, the inability to locate data has not been identified to be software problem, a hardware problem, or a combination; and that it is not known if the data exists, or does not exist on the current drive or the old drive,” Hassler wrote

In the email, Hassler states that a third party company will make a copy of the hard drive.

But in an Aug. 29 reply Whitmer wrote that no data is missing and questions the motives behind the seizure.

Treasurer implicates commissioners

Whitmer charged that two county commissioners directed Hassler to oversee the seizure of the files, calling the move “unacceptable.”

Whitmer named Commissioner James Newberry as one of the two commissioners, the other ostensibly being Commissioner Merrit Linke.

“Further, those records contain information that is germane to the on-going criminal investigation of Commissioner Newberry,” Whitmer wrote. “It is unbelievable that a commissioner under felony indictment believes he has the right to be a part of seizure and control of records that have the potential to prove his guilt.”

Newberry has been charged with multiple felonies in relation to allegations that he falsified entries on county mileage reimbursement documents and charged both the county and the Colorado River District for the same mileage.

When asked about the incident, Newberry directed questions to Hassler.

When first contacted on Aug. 31, Hassler said he could not comment on the matter.

“The board hasn’t finished its review of the timeline and other information about the treasurer’s computer matter so the board can’t comment at this time,” Hassler said.

Hassler added that the board wanted “to talk to all parties and find out more about it.”

In a Sept. 9 phone message, Hassler said the board still had not started an inquiry into the matter.

Hassler had not responded to an additional request for comment as of press time.

Treasurer, commissioners in conflict

Following revelations in 2013 that more than $500,000 had gone missing from the Grand County Building Department, conflicting stories emerged from the county manager’s office and treasurer’s office regarding the discovery of the missing money.

Whitmer previously stated that after raising the issue of missing money with County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, Curran told her to “keep this in the family.”

Underbrink Curran subsequently disputed that account.

Whitmer also publicly sparred with commissioners Newberry and Linke about who was responsible for the missing money going unnoticed.

“This action by certain of the commissioners in seizing my records looks and smells a lot like a fishing expedition, at best, or a thinly veiled attempt at intimidation, at worst,” Whitmer wrote in the Aug. 29 email.

Whitmer also challenges Hassler’s assertion that the problem “has not been identified to be a software problem, a hardware problem, or a combination.”

The treasurer’s office has been working with software provider Creditron since January to correct software issues that prevented certain information from being displayed correctly, Whitmer wrote.

“To be clear, there are no images missing; all the historic images are on the hard drive that I saved and that the commissioners have now taken control,” Whitmer wrote. “Further, no data is missing concerning any payment received by my office.”


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