Commissioners, attorney correct bonding error

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Moffat County Attorney Kathleen Taylor is moving to correct a longtime oversight in the state mandated bonding process for county commissioners.

According to state statute, all elected county officials in Colorado are required to execute a bond that guarantees they will faithfully and honestly discharge the duties of their office.

Each commissioner on the Moffat County Board of Commissioners has obtained a $10,000 bond with Pioneer General Insurance Company, based in Denver. But state statute further requires county commissioners to obtain approval from a district court judge before filing the bond with the Clerk and Recorder Office.

For at least the last 25 years, no Moffat County Commissioners have obtained bond approval from a judge, Taylor said.

However, Tamara Murray, underwriter at Pioneer Insurance, said this oversight does not impact the surety of the bond as far as her company is concerned.

"As far as we know, the bond is still good," Murray said.

Once her company insures a bond, they will see that it is enforced. She said the bond would still be good even if were lost in the mail and never reached the county courthouse.

Taylor said that according to an 1891 case law, the bond's surety is guaranteed regardless of a judge's approval.

Taylor became aware of the oversight while filling an open records request from Craig resident Stan Hathhorn in early November. She has since taken steps to get district judge approval.

After discovering the mistake, Hathhorn forwarded the documents to the Craig Daily Press, Aspen District Attorney Lawson Wills, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, State Auditor Diane Ray, Moffat County District Attorney Bonnie Roesink and Kathleen Taylor.

Ken Lane, a spokesman for Salazar, said the attorney general's office does not look into citizen complaints against county government.

According to state statute, any commissioner who performs his or her job without a bond is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction will be fined $500 to $5,000 and imprisoned in the county jail for 30 days to six months.

But Chip Taylor, legislative director with Colorado Counties Inc., a research group of Colorado counties, said that a case where a county obtained a bond but did not get the bond approved by a judge has never come before a Colorado court. Since the law doesn't specify a penalty for not getting a judge's approval, a penalty, if one were to be imposed, would be decided by the court if the case were to go to court.

District Attorney Bonnie Roesink was unavailable for comment.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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