The Grand County Board of Commissioners has voted unanimously to reimburse legal fees for the county manager after she was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.
The commissioners made the motion at their Tuesday, Aug. 19, meeting to enter into a contract with Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, a Denver-based law firm, for County Manager Lurline Underbrink-Curran’s legal fees.
Underbrink-Curran and several other county employees, including the county finance director and county treasurer, have been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, which is based in Routt County.
A grand jury is a prosecutorial tool used to investigate possible criminal misconduct and may or may not issue indictments. They can also give a prosecutor a sense of a case’s strength.
So far, there has been no word as to what the grand jury is investigating or whether it has issued any indictments. In Colorado, all participants in a grand jury are sworn to secrecy.
The fees agreed upon were for $425 an hour and would not exceed $10,000, said County Attorney Anthony “Jack” DiCola.
County Finance Director Scott Berger would also be requesting reimbursement from the county, DiCola said.
DiCola also recommended that county commissioners agree to reimburse any employee who is not immune from prosecution for their attorney’s fees.
“If in fact those employees are indicted then we will cross that bridge when we come to it, but it would be my recommendation then that we seek our reimbursement of those attorney’s fees from the employees,” DiCola said.
Commissioners ultimately made a motion to cover attorney’s fees for elected officials as well, though DiCola expressed some reservations about whether an elected official is technically an employee of the county.
“If I’m asked to come on down and I have the criminal one, I expect that I would be represented by the taxpayers until I’m indicted,” said Gary Bumgarner, county commissioner.
“That would be my recommendation as well, but I’d like to cross that bridge when we come to it,” DiCola said. “Maybe I’d never have to make that recommendation.”
The practice of covering attorney’s fees for public employees and elected officials who are not indicted by a grand jury or are later found innocent isn’t uncommon.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.