Resolution rewind

County plans to pass new measure Thursday to replace possible illegal money transfer

County commissioners Thursday will review a resolution that would void another resolution passed Friday authorizing a transfer of county funds to cover debts on the Moffat County Public Safety Center -- all amid questions on the legality of the commissioners' move late last week.

The resolution to be considered Thursday would move about $100,000 from the county's capital projects fund and $200,000 from the public safety center fund to the county's jail fund.

The monies would help cover a transaction executed last Thursday -- Moffat County's twice-annual bond payment covering the loan on the public safety center.

Commissioners approved a similar transfer Friday. However, the move involved $100,000 from the county's general fund and $200,000 from the public safety center fund to the county's jail fund.

"Funds have been wired for payment (of the safety center debt), but the money has not been loaned internally yet," said Cindi Shanahan, deputy clerk to the Board of Moffat County Commissioners.

The new resolution -- which Shanahan said is to be published prior to Thursday -- comes in the wake of legal issues raised following the commissioners' decision Friday.

Stan Hathhorn, a Moffat County resident who objected to the move, argued Friday that proper notice wasn't given, citing state statute:

"Any transfer, supplemental appropriation, or revised appropriation made pursuant to this section shall be made only by ordinance or resolution which complies with the notice provisions of section 29-1-106."

Section 29-1-106 calls for government to post notice of the meeting in three public places and publish it one time in the newspaper. Shanahan posted notice of the meeting Thursday morning.

Moffat County Attorney Kathleen Taylor did not attend Friday's meeting and was unavailable for comment on the notice questions.

"She will not render a legal opinion this week," said Ute Murray, Moffat County paralegal.

Tom Kelly, attorney with the Colorado Press Association, cast doubt on commissioners' Friday vote.

"Clearly they didn't comply with those requirements, but possible consequences are nothing like I've seen before," Kelly said.

Moreover, shifting of money from the county's general fund for debt service purposes -- as approved under Friday's resolution -- could conflict with another state statute, which also was cited by Hathhorn.

The legal questions stem from a bond payment -- slightly more than $618,000 wired to Wells Fargo Bank -- which was due Thursday.

A second 2003 installment is due Nov. 15.

The county sought to shift monies because its jail fund couldn't cover the transaction. The jail fund stood at slightly more than $348,000 last week, according to Robert Razzano, Moffat County treasurer.

Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said last week she thought the payment was due last Friday, while the situation reportedly came to county officials' attention the day before payment was due.

A missed payment Thursday would have meant late penalties.

Debra Murray, Moffat County administrative services director said she was not aware of anyone being in charge of managing the process.

"I don't know if anybody has ever taken responsibility for it, but from this time on I will," Murray said.

Murray said she learned of the jail fund's shortfall Wednesday from the county treasurer's office.

Razanno, meanwhile, insists he didn't know the depleted jail fund couldn't cover the payment until Thursday.

Both can agree communication broke down.

"We're having a meeting to make sure we always have the right procedures in place," Murray said.

Murray has said the county ran into a similar situation last year, facing a need to transfer funds to make a payment.

Moffat County resident Charlie Watkins, who was at Friday's meeting, asked why, if this has been an issue in the past, the county faced the situation it did Friday.

"My concern is if we knew we had a problem last year, why didn't we look at this a little earlier in the year?" Watkins said. "Instead of waiting until the day it is due and passing the resolution a day later."

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com

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