Summit County DA investigating James Newberry over mileage charges
The 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is conducting an investigation into allegations of impropriety by a Grand County commissioner.
The allegations stem from revelations brought to light in July that County Commissioner James Newberry had filed expense reports for the same mileage to both Grand County and the Colorado River Water Conservation District, of which Newberry is president.
Newberry has maintained that his actions did not violate the law or county policy.
“My comment would be, I welcome the investigation and having fresh eyes on it, and I guess that’s it,” Newberry said.
A letter from Grand County Attorney Jack DiCola to investigators identified complaints from Chas McConnell as the impetus for the investigation.
McConnell is a spokesman for Citizens for Transparency in Grand County Government, a group that previously raised similar allegations during a July 2014 board of county commissioners meeting. At that time, McConnell stated that he believed the total amount to be around $3,000, while Newberry maintained that it was around $1,000.
“It’s been leading to dead ends, and that’s all I’ll say,” Newberry said, referencing the group’s previous allegations.
McConnell previously ran against Newberry for county commissioner in two elections, which Newberry won.
“At this time, the citizen’s group does not want to make a statement,” McConnell said on Tuesday. “We don’t want to hinder the criminal investigation in any way.”
The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office would likely recuse itself from an investigation involving a Grand County commissioner.
The Grand County Commissioners approve the budget for 14th Judicial District Attorney Brett Barkey’s Grand County office and operations.
The 5th Judicial District includes Summit, Lake, Eagle and Clear Creek counties.
Jacob Scott, an investigator with the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, directed the Sky-Hi News to District Attorney Bruce Brown for questions.
As of press time, Brown had not returned a request for comment.
County attorney letter
The letter from County Attorney DiCola to investigator Scott contends that Newberry did not violate county policy or the law.
The letter, dated Dec. 19, 2014, draws parallels between Newberry’s multiple expense reports and a 1912 case in which a sheriff charged transportation mileage for individual prisoners.
The letter also mentions Grand County EMS policy that allows multiple patients transported in the same ambulance to be charged for mileage.
“We have brought in outside auditors who reviewed all county policies and procedures as did this office,” DiCola wrote. “We will recommend a policy that allows reimbursement from one source.”
DiCola also attacks McConnell in the letter, stating that he “has a political agenda.”
DiCola cites McConnell’s two losses to Newberry.
Additionally, the letter cites a possible issue regarding campaign contributions to Newberry, though it doesn’t elaborate.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.
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