Letter: Grand County manager responds to criticism
To the Editor:
As Americans we have many freedoms and rights guaranteed to us by those that founded our great country. One of those is freedom of speech. We have the right to state our opinions, whether based on fact or some other type of information. Our laws give us great latitude in stating our opinions. We can question the integrity and honesty of others except when we slander.
The definition of integrity from Webster’s Dictionary is “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility”. Honesty is defined in the same dictionary as “a fairness and straightforwardness of conduct.” I have adhered to both of these definitions my entire life and will not sit back and say nothing while my integrity or honesty is attacked.
When holding a position in a public setting, it must be assumed that one’s performance may be criticized. This may come from misunderstanding of the duties, personal or professional disagreements or not doing the job properly. I have always accepted this as part of employment. I have resisted making any public comment to date as I feel that professional decorum is required in my position. Undermining others or the organization that I have worked so hard for is not productive and does nothing to address the issues.
I deeply regret the theft in the building department and that it occurred on my watch. The procedures that were in place at the time were those that have been in place in the county since before my time and through decades of audits and annual budget reviews and approvals. Annual reports stated that internal controls were adequate. Should these procedures have been more robust? Should more specific policies have been in place? Certainly in hindsight that would be true. The County has taken steps to implement changes that would allow theft to be identified sooner but would not stop a theft in the future. No one who has criticized me has ever sat down to speak with me even though I have always had an open door policy.
There is continued criticism that there is still “the issue of the missing $500,000 from the Building Department”. There is no missing $500,000.
The fact is that a total of $515,641.00 was misappropriated from 2002 through 2013. This included checks that were destroyed in 2012 and 2013 [allegedly] by the person accused; these checks were not cashed. Grand County contacted owners/contractors to reissue these checks. Some owners/contractors stated they had paid in cash and it was assumed this cash was taken. Due to the honesty of the citizens of Grand County $199,123.85 was collected by reissued checks as of Nov. 10, 2014. $316,518 was then submitted to the insurance company as a claim of loss. The insurance paid Grand County $316,018 which subtracted the $500 deductible. Grand County has since collected an additional $19,238 in reissued checks, which has been remitted to the insurance company and reduced the amount of payment by the insurance company to $296,780. Therefore, all monies belonging to the citizens and taxpayers of Grand County have been recovered except for the $500 deductible, and Grand County continues to work to collect monies.
The Alvarez and Marsal Report issued in November 2014 determined that the $515,641 of misappropriated funds was 6.1 percent of the total potential revenue attributed to the Building Department from 2002 through 2013. In actuality, due to the collections by Grand County, the misappropriated funds ($296,780) are 3.5 percent of the potential revenue of the Building Department from 2002 through 2013. In a $28 million-plus annual budget, an average of 6.1 percent is not readily apparent, but there is no dispute that it should have been discovered in the Building Department sooner.
Several people were summoned to the Grand Jury with a “target subpoena” with regard to the theft in the building department. It was my understanding that the charge of the Grand Jury was to determine if any one of us was involved in the theft. According to the Grand Jury report, no criminal actions were identified. The Grand Jury made statements about the management of the county, but that was not their charge. I do not believe they had adequate information to understand the structure of the county or how the overall management of the county was handled. I made no comment on the Grand Jury report because I was required to take an oath not to discuss my testimony or the questions I was asked. I did not feel I could comment without breaking that oath.
It is not my responsibility or in my job description to manage the Board of County Commissioners. I act at their direction. I do not question any Commissioner’s travel or expenditure. When a receipt is required for Commissioner expenditure (for meals or other expenditures) my department attaches those receipts to the expenditure report or credit card bill as required. If a receipt is not available, a written statement is required as to what was spent and why. We prepare the vouchers for payment as submitted by any Commissioner and have done so as long as I have been county manager and by the previous county manager as well. My signature on the expenditure report for the Commissioners is a verification that the expense comes out of the Commissioners budget not a verification of appropriateness. That is the job of the Board of Commissioners to police themselves and each other when they approve the weekly vouchers.
During my time as County Manager, the county has implemented a 5 year capital improvement plan, built a judicial center and paid for it, one of only several counties that are debt free, established appropriate job descriptions and salary payment plan, negotiated $167 million in assets of water, water rights, storage, monies, future projects and cooperation, implemented a motor pool, dealt with a slough at the landfill, built the Fraser Road shop, obtained the Stadelman Conservation Easement from Denver Water to protect the Fraser flats, improved both airports, and secured millions of dollars in grants to name but a few.
I believe my reputation is that of a straightforward person. I have always operated from a code of fairness and honesty in my dealings with employees and citizens. Straightforward communication isn’t always what people want to hear and I am not always able to provide the outcome desired, but there is no misunderstanding in the information I give. Many want the communication sugar-coated, but that is not my style.
My benefit from working for Grand County has been the salary and benefits that I have earned, the personal and professional gratification of working with the great employees that also dedicate themselves to Grand County and its betterment, and the honor and pride I have felt in the job I have done for Grand County for 33 years with integrity and honesty.
Lurline Underbrink Curran
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On Thursday, a Grand County District Court judge sentenced a man with a history of burning slash piles on his property to 10 days in jail.