‘Transparency’ citizen group seeks answers from Grand County officials

Hank Shell
A letter presented to commissioners on Tuesday from Citizens for Transparency in Grand County Government is scheduled to be addressed in two weeks.
Tonya Bina/ |

HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — Members of a citizen group — that for several months has been behind the scenes questioning conduct of Grand County government — have publicly presented themselves to the board of county commissioners.

At a Tuesday, May 20 commissioner meeting during public forum, two members of the group presented to the board and the county’s top administration a list of questions regarding the county’s handling of the building department scandal, among other concerns.

Chas McConnell, spokesman for Citizens for Transparency in Grand County Government, and fellow spokesman John Dickinson presented to commissioners eight questions during the open forum section of the meeting.

The document presented to the commissioners asks how County Manager Lurline Underbrink-Curran discovered money was missing from the Grand County Building Department, and it specifically addresses communication transactions between Underbrink-Curran and County Treasurer Christina Whitmer.

It also raises issues with cash and check handling policies in the county, the county’s management style and alleged internal theft at county fuel pumps.

The document from McConnell’s group also called for a fraud audit in Grand County government in addition to the forensic audit currently being conducted.

A fraud audit differs from a forensic audit in that it is a comprehensive search for unconfirmed, though suspected fraud, McConnell said, while a forensic audit is largely reactionary and in response to a specific incident.

McConnell said the proposed audit would look at how money is handled by the county and its employees.

During the meeting, commissioners agreed to answer questions in the document at 7 a.m. before the county’s regular June 2 meeting.

Commissioner James Newberry said that some of the questions were personnel issues and some were speculation, but the commissioners would make an effort to answer or elucidate every question wholly and truthfully.

“I think it will be an interesting conversation, and we’re looking forward to it,” Newberry said.

This isn’t the first time Citizens for Transparency in Grand County Government has voiced its concerns to county officials. The group requested the county do a complete internal audit in a March 17 email sent to county commissioners. At that time the group was completely anonymous.

McConnell, who in 2012 ran against Grand County Commissioner James Newberry in District 1, and in a prior election as a write-in candidate for commissioner, said the group, though very large, still maintains its anonymity to protect its members.

“We are a very diverse group of professionals and workers from every walk of life,” McConnell said. “A lot of our members have ties with the county, so we are very careful about protecting the identity of some of the people.”

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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