Last week we posted our concerns that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) has mismanaged funds to the point of running out of money with two and a half months left in the calendar year. See our post, ‘Follow the Money: Public Safety Tax and Other Funding.’ In this article, we explore the LACK of oversight, a contributing factor to mismanagement and zero transparency.
We’re told EPSO’s mobile command vehicle cannot be returned to service because there’s no money to pay the repair bill. Firearms proficiency training has been cut from four times a year down to one. These create serious officer safety issues.
If we’re lucky, no one will get hurt, but there’s still the potential for yet more EPSO-related lawsuits against the County (Have you had your fill of those yet? I sure have). By the way, it’s taxpayer money that pays for all these lawsuits and settlements. It comes from YOUR pockets, and not from the people responsible for the misconduct.
While that’s bad enough, the EPSO has failed to provide MANDATORY transparency over its funding, especially the Public Safety Tax (PST-1A). Of course, the likely reason for this lack of transparency is found in the paragraphs above.
But the concerns don’t end there. We filed a request for PST budget information through the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). We received a batch of documents we’re still sifting through, but on first look, there does not appear to be any documentation showing how the PST money has been spent in any detail, nor does it appear there were any public disclosures as required.
A County attorney informed us that in order to provide the documents we requested, it would take an estimated 100+ hours of staff work. At a cost of $30/hour, that’s $3,000+ to get what we need.
Let that sink in.
The EPSO and the County are required by law to provide public transparency of how PST money is spent. It should come at no cost to the taxpayers and it should happen without anyone asking for it. Instead, the County wants to charge a member of the public more than $3,000 to produce what the law mandates be done automatically and without a fee.
Shouldn’t a County attorney DEMAND compliance with the PST’s mandatory transparency requirements? Instead, we get this. Where’s the oversight? Where are the checks and balances? Who’s looking out for the taxpayer? And government wonders why voters become cynical…
Something is terribly wrong with budgeting at the EPSO. It’s time for the citizens to exercise ballot box oversight and vote out of office every incumbent up and down the ticket. I’ll have a post on this very issue tomorrow.
When I’m elected, I will bring in a team of auditors to go through every transaction and account for every cent of taxpayer money. We’ll post our findings on the EPSO website where the public will have the transparency it deserves. I’ll also be prepared to bring in the Department of Justice if the audit findings merit a more intense look.
I’ll look out for the taxpayers. I’ll be a good steward of the peoples’ money. I will ensure transparency and full accountability.