HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — The $500,000 “missing” from the county’s building department could have accounted for an average year’s worth of expenditures, and almost an average year’s worth of revenue.
It also could have almost paid for another full-time employee.
According to building department budget records obtained for the 12-year period, the “illegal activity” went on in the department, an average of $440,360 went to expenditures each year. The county only provided revenue information for the last 10 years, which showed an average of $602,712 went to the building department each year. The building department’s revenue comes from permits and contractor licensing fees. That revenue ranged from a high of $1.24 million during the 2005 building boom, to a low of $171,408 in 2012. Some of that lost income is a result of Fraser and Granby pulling out of the county building department. The two towns instead joined the Winter Park building department in 2007 and 2010, respectively.
The missing funds amount to an average of $41,667 per year for the 12-year period the county is investigating. For comparison, the building department spent between $44,150 and $68,843 per full-time employee over the last 10 years for which they provided information. The building department currently has five employees, but has had as many as 8.75 full-time equivalents over the last decade.
County commissioner minutes from a special meeting in early January noted that “a person in the (building) department has done something criminal.” The commissioners mostly discussed the activity during executive sessions, which are closed to the public, but the minutes implied an employee had taken cash out of the department’s till. Commissioners have since adopted a county-wide employee policy for handling cash and checks.
The sheriff’s department is continuing to look into the case, but investigations have been delayed due to poor record-keeping within the building department. No suspects have been named and no charges have been filed. For now, Sheriff Rod Johnson is referring to the $500,000 as “missing” instead of “stolen.”
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.