Newberry faces additional mileage allegations
Grand County Commissioner James Newberry has issued a public apology after it was discovered that he double-charged Grand County for the same mileage over a four-year period.
Mileage sheets show that Newberry accrued more than $1500 in mileage reimbursements for mileage that he had already been reimbursed for, as well as for meetings that minutes indicate he did not attend or attended by phone.
“I regret this error, and I’m truly sorry for the mistake,” Newberry said in a statement. “I think it is quite clear that my bookkeeping / reporting skills need a lot of improvement.”
The Sky-Hi News was alerted to the documents on Thursday, May 14.
All were part of a packet sent to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office for its investigation into allegations that Newberry charged both Grand County and the Colorado River District for the same mileage. Newberry is on the district’s board of directors.
Newberry was charged with one count of official misconduct, a class two misdemeanor, in that case.
5th Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown indicated that his office was already aware of the new allegations.
Newberry’s arraignment for the count of official misconduct is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on May 26 in Grand County Court.
Brown is the special prosecutor for that case.
“I don’t know definitively what will be the outcome of that type of a hearing,” Brown said. “Certainly the extent of my appointment as a special prosecutor was limited in scope, but it’s not limited to the number or amount of charges that can be brought, generally speaking.”
Brown previously told the Sky-Hi News that the “double-dipping” of mileage was “the only issue that we feel constituted criminal conduct.”
Speaking to the Sky-Hi News on Wednesday, May 20 Brown called that statement “nuance,” explaining that it’s common practice for to file supplemental charges after the initial charges are filed.
“The criminal code allows for a case to be brought based upon a series of actions over a lengthy period of time,” Brown said. “The charges that were filed were one count that was intended to identify a series of actions over a four-year period.”
It’s unclear what if any new charges Newberry will face regarding the new allegations, though Brown said that “charges do change.”
“This isn’t like a race to the finish line,” Brown said. “It’s more of a marathon.”
The new documents seem to reveal a pattern of inaccuracies in Newberry’s mileage reports spanning from 2009 to 2012, the scope of the documents obtained by Sky-Hi News.
The most serious incident stems from a mileage sheet for March through June of 2009.
Newberry submitted an expense statement for the mileage in August 2009 receiving a $1322.20 reimbursement, according to records.
Newberry then submitted a near identical statement for the same period in December, receiving a $1,223.20 reimbursement.
In the first statement, Newbery bills the county for 193 miles to travel to a meeting in Breckenridge. He then bills the county 80 miles for the same trip in the second statement, indicating that he rode half the distance with County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran.
Curran approves all of Newberry’s mileage reimbursements.
Minutes from the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments indicate Newberry participated in a Dec. 6, 2012 meeting in Minturn via telephone and did not attend a Dec. 9, 2010 meeting in Gypsum.
Newberry billed the county 173 miles for the 2012 meeting and 180 miles for the 2010 meeting.
Minutes from a March 9, 2012 Colorado River District meeting indicate that Newberry did not attend, though he billed the county 240 miles for the meeting.
The documents show other instances of the same trip being billed on more than one expense report.
Sky-Hi News confronted Newberry with the documents on Monday, May 18, after which he said he went to the Grand County Courthouse to repay the money.
“Today I went to the finance department to address the issues you brought to my attention Monday 5/18,” Newberry wrote in a statement on May 20. “We reviewed the original reports and found your concerns to be correct. The finance director reconciled the reports. I reimbursed the county, plus interest, the difference.”
Newberry repaid $1547.37, said County Finance Director Scott Berger.
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