Perhaps some closure came to the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce on May 14 with the sentencing of former executive director Brad Taylor, who pleaded guilty for the second time to embezzling chamber funds.
In December, Taylor had abandoned a plea agreement with the district attorney's office and entered a not guilty plea, which gave way to another plea deal later. Public Defender Matt Troxell of Steamboat Springs represented Taylor, now of Denver, in last week's sentencing.
During the two years since his original plea agreement, Taylor has paid only $250 in restitution out of more than $20,000 owed to the Grand Lake Chamber and its insurance company, according to Chamber officials. The only other check he submitted bounced.
Taylor had originally pleaded guilty to theft, a class 4 felony, and to theft under $500, a class 2 misdemeanor, as part of the plea agreement for taking funds primarily from the chamber's payroll during his employment.
In the most recent plea agreement after Taylor had failed to comply with the original deal and after the case nearly went to trial, the misdemeanor was dropped, but Taylor was sentenced to class 5 felony theft of $1,000 to $20,000. As part of the sentencing, Taylor is serving 45 days out of a 90-day jail sentence and is required to pay a total of $20,581 in restitution.
District Judge Mary Hoak added four years of supervised probation to the sentence, as well as a complete substance abuse evaluation followed by treatment, plus 100 hours of useful public service, completion of a victim empathy class, genetic testing, and completion of a letter of apology to the chamber.
The cost to the Chamber exceeded the amount of restitution Taylor was ordered to pay, according to former Chamber board president Don Neumann. For instance, the chamber suffered from as much as $15,000 in penalties, interest and taxes not paid during Taylor's employment, Neumann said.
Taylor was employed at the chamber from June 2007 until January 2010.
He embezzled using QuickBooks by deleting several entries in the accounting software after corresponding checks had been printed. Printing checks with the QuickBooks program - including payroll checks, payables and bank deposits - fell under his duties at the time.
Unexplained expense reimbursements were paid into Taylor's bank account, and eight times Taylor double paid himself by seeking signatures from different board members, a loophole in the chamber's financial system that has since been rectified, among others.
"I think that he definitely had the wool pulled over the treasurer's eyes," Neumann said.
During meetings, there were often loud arguments between Taylor and the treasurer at the time Bob Freeman, during which Taylor became defensive about discrepancies in accounts payable and receivable, according to former board members.
"I felt violated," Neumann said about when he found out Taylor had been charged with theft, "that Brad personally ruined my reputation in Grand Lake as a businessman. A lot of people blamed me for what happened."
Neumann said he personally had defended Taylor when others began to mistrust him.
"I think a lot of people are still upset about it, and I can't blame them," Neumann said.
"He never apologized to me or any of the board members."
- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603