Truden’s credit cut off | AspenTimes.com

Truden’s credit cut off

John Colson

In an apparent reaction to lax attention to interdepartmental reporting requirements and other concerns, Garfield County recently canceled an unknown number of credit cards issued to staff members of Colleen Truden’s embattled district attorney’s office.County officials also chided Truden for tardy payment of inner-office invoices and for spending money nearly twice as fast as her budget allows for.County Manager Ed Green, expressing concern over the effect Truden’s actions may have on “the well being of the citizens of Garfield County,” wrote Truden a letter dated July 8. In it, he called on her to follow state law in the operation of the district attorney’s office. State statutes require “that you enter into no contract, expenditure or liability that exceeds the appropriated amount” in her budget. Green pledged to take the matter up with the Garfield County commissioners at future meetings. The matter will be considered today as part of the county’s supplemental budget discussion. Green said Sunday that Truden has requested supplemental amounts of $409,000 in contingency funds from Garfield County. She also has requested, and received, similar funds totaling approximately $191,000 from Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties.Green said the Garfield County share was “directly tied” to eight vacancies in Truden’s department, that, as of early July, had not been filled as far as Green knew. He said Truden recently reported that the eight positions had been filled, which opened the way for her application for supplemental funding. He added that he believes Truden is still two or three positions short of having a full staff.Truden could not be reached for comment Sunday. At a work session with the Garfield County commissioners in June, in addition to her plans to ask for the $600,000 total in contingency funds, she also reportedly said she would be requesting a supplemental amount of $55,000 for computer upgrades and $73,000 for an office remodeling project and employee-related expenses.Garfield County reportedly contributes about $1.1 million of the office’s $1.6 million budget in normal years. The formula is based on caseload among Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties, which comprise the 9th Judicial District.Attorney Sherry Caloia, who is running a recall campaign against Truden, provided documents to The Aspen Times that she obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Included in the material are letters from Green and Pasty Hernandez, Garfield County finance director, to Truden; Hernandez’s letter is also dated July 8.The letters detail the officials’ concerns about the office’s finances and, in Hernandez’s case, threaten to yank the district attorney’s office credit cards unless her concerns were answered.Hernandez, in her letter, said that Truden’s office has been using Visa cards that were issued to certain staff members in January, when she took office. The bills for those cards from January through June have been paid, Hernandez reported, even though relevant Visa receipts have not been copied and forwarded to the finance department, as required by county rules.Noting that the lack of the necessary paper trail could cause the county problems in its next “auditor management letter,” Hernandez directed Truden to get all the relevant documents to the finance office by July 22 or the cards would be canceled.But Green went a step further.He pointed out that by the end of June Truden’s office had already spent $546,467 of the total budget of $736,072 allotted by Garfield County for this year. The budget was reduced from the previous year’s levels due to the departure of the eight staffers who left with former District Attorney Mac Myers.Green wrote, “You are spending at the rate of more than $110,000 per [month].” At that rate, if continued through the rest of the year, Truden would spend $1.32 million in 2005 for just the Garfield County share of her budget.”Currently, you must be expending funds and incurring debt in a time period commencing on the first of July 2005. Based on the foregoing, it is clear that you should have expended funds in excess of the amounts appropriated by Garfield County for the operation of your office,” he wrote. “All current payments from your office … cannot be honored at this time.”Noting the problems discussed in Hernandez’s letter, Green continued, “To the extent you and your staff are currently utilizing those cards, you are incurring debt without appropriated funds. Because this is potentially the direct debt of Garfield County … I must terminate the use of those cards by you and your staff immediately.”At a meeting in the wake of the July 8 memos, Truden agreed that the credit cards should be canceled, Green said yesterday.In the memos to Truden, both officials referred to her office’s tardiness in submitting invoices to the finance department for such things as use of motor pool vehicles, long distance phone charges, postage and rent. In addition, Hernandez requested that Truden pay more attention to her request for payments for expenses incurred by her staff.Specifically, Hernandez asked that the district attorney make her requests “as close to the time they were incurred as possible.”In managing our cash flow, we need to make payments to you on a monthly basis, not several months of invoices in one month (i.e., if you bill us in July for May and June expenses, this impacts our cash-flow management).”Hernandez indicated that Truden had on at least one occasion lumped the payment requests of two months together at the end of the month following, creating a bookkeeping problem for the finance department.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com