New transfer resolution passed

Officials from other counties say they see no legal problem in fund move

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The Moffat County commissioners passed a new resolution Thursday amending a decision made in a public meeting last week to transfer $300,000 to the jail fund to cover payments due on the Moffat County Public Safety Center.

The money is still being transferred, but instead of moving $100,000 of the $300,000 from the general fund, $100,000 is being transferred from the capital projects fund.

The other $200,000 is being taken from the public safety center fund, as it was in the original resolution last week.

By a unanimous vote, the commissioners approved the transfer Thursday.

The changes were made to the resolution as a result of questions posed about the legality of last week's decision.

The resolution was passed last Friday to transfer the money, a day after the funds had been wired to Wells Fargo Bank.

In the meeting last week, some Moffat County residents questioned the legality of passing the resolution after the fact.

They also questioned the fact that no legal notice was posted prior to the transfer.

The commissioners said last week they had no choice in the matter, stating that if the funds were not transferred when the payment was due, the county would have a check bounce and have to suffer penalties.

But, after further investigation, it was found that the treasurer's office had cash on hand to make the payment.

Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele said the transfer of funds was put on hold until the legality of the transfer could be investigated further.

The county sought advice from the Colorado Division of Local Government, the county auditor and four surrounding counties about how the situation should be handled, and whether last week's payment and fund transfer were legal.

Geoff Withers, with the Division of Local Government, was paraphrased in the meeting agenda as saying he did not believe a legal notice was required in the situation because it was not a budgetary transfer.

In an email to Moffat County Director of Administrative Services Debra Murray, Withers said he was providing an opinion, and said, "I am not, however, an officer of the court, and my observations should not be relied upon as legal opinion."

In an answer to the question of whether the transfer required a legal notice published in the newspaper, Withers said he did not think so.

"You are covering a temporary cash shortfall in one fund by using money from another fund, and that this will be repaid to the fund from which the money originated before the end of the year," he said in the email.

Paul Backes of McMahan and Associates, the county auditor, also was cited in material distributed Thursday.

The meeting agenda said Backes did not believe that this was a budgetary transfer, and said a legal notice did not need to be published in the newspaper.

According to the agenda distributed Thursday, four counties were contacted about the situation that arose last week and asked how they would have handled the transferring of necessary funds and notifying the public.

The agenda states:

  • La Plata County -- Does not publish transfers in the newspaper. La Plata County does, however, post a Public Notice of Decision Agenda and list the transfers on it. Cindy Shanahan did post the agenda.
  • Routt County -- They have not had to do anything similar to this before; however, the financial officer believes that this is a cash flow issue and would not have advertised it.
  • Grand County -- Did not see that the county did anything improper in this situation. He believes that we should take the recommendations of our auditor and the state Department of Local Affairs.
  • Rio Blanco County -- They do not advertise transfers.

At the conclusion of Thursday's discussion on the matter, opinions still differed on whether last week's payment and fund transfers were or weren't legal.

But Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele said in order to ensure the legality of the move, the commissioners decided to transfer the funds as a loan from the capital projects fund instead of the general fund based on advice they received from Withers.

County officials have said the money will be put back in the funds from which it was taken when revenues come into the county coffers next month.

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said the commissioners thought they were doing what needed to be done last week.

"There was no intent at all to do anything wrong," she said at the conclusion of Thursday's meeting.

The situation Moffat County faced in loaning money between funds was the result of a bond payment of $618,000 due on the Moffat County Public Safety Center May 15.

Not enough money was available in the jail fund because most property and sales taxes won't be collected until next month.

In order to make sure that the jail fund did not show a negative balance at the end of this month, the county was forced to temporarily shift money from two other funds to the jail fund.

An invoice dated April 16 from Wells Fargo Bank to Debra Murray shows that the county was notified of the due payment a month in advance.

But Murray has said she was not aware of anyone being charged with managing the process, and Moffat County Treasurer Robert Razanno has said he didn't know until last Thursday that the depleted jail fund couldn't cover the payment.

Officials said Thursday that weekly meetings will now be held amongst the treasurer's office, county commissioners and the administrative services office to try and avoid future situations such as the one that arose last week.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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