Officials say allegations are unfounded

The most recent allegations of fraud by vocal Moffat County critic Jeff Taylor are unfounded, according to county contract documents.

Last week Taylor claimed the Board of County Commissioners did not report the sale of offices in the Public Safety Center to Wells Fargo Bank, the county's lender. He alleged that the failure to report the sale of office space to the Colorado State Patrol constituted fraud in the sum of $1.2 million -- the amount of money the state paid the county for the offices.

But Ambac Financial Group, the company that insured the loans, agreed to the jail transaction even before any loans were issued or construction of the building began. Ambac did not expect the county to deposit any money from the sale with the Wells Fargo Bank, according to documents from the Moffat County Financial Committee Certificates of Participation book.

Moreover, Ambac does not care what leases or sales the county makes regarding the jail, as long as the county continues to meet its loan payments.

Taylor has e-mailed a series of letters to Wells Fargo Bank and Sheriff Buddy Grinstead titled "Evidence of Fraud by Moffat Commissioners."

Ethel Vicks, a trustee at the bank, said she has been forwarding the e-mails to Ambac.

"It's something we're going to monitor, but we aren't very concerned about it," said Pete Poillon, director of external relations at Ambac.

Poillon said his company would only investigate the county if he believed the county would default on its loan payments. He declined to comment further.

Grinstead said he has been collecting Taylor's e-mails in a folder on his computer. He has not investigated the allegations.

Other accusations of fraud seem to be similarly discounted. Taylor claimed the county defrauded Wells Fargo Bank by "releasing" the Grouse Mountain microwave system to the state.

The equipment is part of the jail telecommunications system. The state patrol requested the equipment as a condition to come to Craig, Commissioner Marianna Rafto-poulos said.

According to a memorandum of understanding between the county and the state -- executed before the issuance of the certificates of participation -- the state always owned the system and would be responsible for its operation and maintenance. The county agreed to provide funds for the equipment upgrade. Releasing the upgraded equipment to the state was a formality in the agreement, because technically, the state owned the equipment from the beginning.

About four years ago, Jeff Taylor lived in Moffat County for several months, when his relatives bought property across the street from Raftopoulos' property. Raftopoulos said they got along at first. Taylor offered to provide his insight on telecommunications, since he has knowledge in that field and the county was involved in negotiations with NC Telecom.

This much both Raftopoulos and Taylor agree upon: The commissioner board and Taylor disagreed on the best action to take regarding the NC Telecom deal. After the disagreement, each party accused the other of turning on them.

Since that time, Taylor has dogged the commissioners with allegations of unlawful conduct. Earlier this year, Raftopoulos filed a lawsuit against Taylor for harassment, defamation and slander, but has been unable to find him to serve him with papers. Taylor has signed letters as a California resident.

In December, Stan Hathhorn, a commissioner candidate for District 1, brought to light the fact that none of the commissioners had received approval from a district judge on their surety bonds. Taylor insisted the bond error made the commissioners a fraudulent government and that the sheriff should arrest them immediately. But the commissioners had their bonds approved and nothing more came of the issue.

Last November, commissioners claimed Taylor was partially responsible for weakening a refinancing deal Public Safety Center payments. During refinancing negotiations, Taylor sent e-mails to Ambac officials making allegations similar to those described above. Ambac later refused to insure the refinancing plan the county wanted.

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

Commenting has been disabled for this item.