County faces additional mismanagement charge

Stan Hathhorn ready to file fourth affidavit

Moffat County resident Stan Hathhorn is serious about holding county commissioners accountable for their actions.

That's why the outspoken opponent who has formerly lodged three separate charges against commissioners for the alleged misuse of funds is ready to fire off another affidavit against the county.

"I'm not going to let this die," he said. "I'll do whatever it takes to make sure the commissioners are watching the taxpayers' money and staying in accordance with the law."

Moffat County commissioners recently approved a $3.5 million refinancing plan for the money-losing Public Safety Center.

The new certificates on the Jail Fund will refinance about $2.6 million of the center's original $12.1 million taken out in loans in 1998. Without the refinancing move, commissioners have said they wouldn't have enough to cover a $282,278 Nov. 15 payment on the Jail Fund and have enough left over to fund other county expenses, such as payroll.

A four-member, local Moffat County Finance Corporation initially appointed by commissioners to oversee the 1998 loan recently approved the latest refinancing, said Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos.

The county's outside legal assistance, Sherman & Howard of Denver, is still working over the details.

According to Hathhorn, the county's latest refinancing plan on the Jail Fund loan isn't legal because taxpayer dollars will go toward "maintaining" the Public Safety Center, one contingency voters didn't approve in 1997.

He also argues that $202,000 in lost costs to refinancing could have been avoided if commissioners tried to make a payment on the Public Safety Center loan through other methods -- such as solely using sales tax revenue.

"The problem is that tax revenue has been co-mingled with operating fund, which is a clear misuse of the funds voted by electors in the 1997 ballot," Hatthorn wrote to the Craig Daily Press in an email.

According to Commissioner Les Hampton, that's not his interpretation of the ballot question.

The 1997 ballot question states... "the county shall receive...75 of one cent collected on such $1.00 purchase being used by the county for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, equipping, furnishing and maintaining capital projects..."

"You have to look at the intent of the ballot question," Hampton said. "In my interpretation, I think (the "maintaining" argument) is extremely technical and I'm confident (Hathhorn's argument) doesn't hold any water."

Hampton said the county needed to refinance the loan to make the payment, otherwise it would be like "buying parts and putting them on the porch."

"In my interpretation, you can't maintain the facility without people (Public Safety Center employees) putting in the time," he said.

According to county cash flow figures, if revenues from the Public Safety Center continue to come in under budget and without the refinancing move, the fund would be more than $6.6 million in the red by 2023.

If county lawyers wrap up the deal as expected before the mid-November date, the county owes an adjusted $21.1 million by 2025. Before refinancing, the county had $18.7 million left to pay on the loan, including interest.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craidailypress.com.

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