Seven months later, fewer than half of recommendations from $50,000 audit completed in Weld County | MyWindsorNow.com

Seven months later, fewer than half of recommendations from $50,000 audit completed in Weld County

Tyler Silvy
tsilvy@greeleytribune.com

More than six months after Weld County spent $50,000 on two audits of key county departments, just 10 of 26 recommendations from the outside auditor have been completed — and one of those was completed by voters in November 2017, according to information provided to The Tribune.

The Weld County Council, an elected, unpaid oversight board charged with examining all aspects of Weld County government, hired an outside agency in February 2017 to audit the Weld County Clerk and Recorder's Office and the Board of Weld County Commissioners.

The audits were released in mid-August 2017, hitting the clerk and recorder on high turnover, low morale, favoritism and retaliation, and targeting commissioners over excessive spending on a training conference, lack of transparency in some public meetings and a lack of protections for whistleblowers.

In all, the San Francisco-based Harvey M. Rose Associates auditors offered 26 recommendations — 18 for Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes and eight for county commissioners — to improve the work environment in both places. To date, 10 of those recommendations have been completed.

Weld County Council President Gene Stille said the audit doesn't have any teeth.

"The only way we can get those things to be completed is to hire new people, either from the clerk and recorder's office or (commissioners)," Stille said.

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Three of the completed recommendations come from the commissioners' audit.

Koppes has refused to provide any information about actions her office has taken in response to the audit, and a Colorado Open Records Act request for a list of actions taken revealed no such list exists. But previous reporting and interviews by The Tribune suggest at least seven of the 18 audit recommendations for the clerk's office have been completed or are in progress.

Koppes said she's working on a report for the Weld County Council, and she will not provide any further information until then. The Tribune first asked for materials Feb. 6 from Koppes and the Board of Weld County Commissioners. Weld County spokeswoman Jennifer Finch provided a list the next day, Feb. 7.

The Weld County Clerk and Recorder's Office offers free wifi, has completed management training centered on favoritism and retaliation, has continued to seek approval for contracts through commissioners and has updated its website and phone recording with more accurate information for customers. The clerk's office also came to agreement with commissioners to hire more workers, and the creation of a mail processing center and the relocation of silent alarms is thought to be complete or in progress, according to previous Tribune reporting and interviews.

Of the eight recommendations for commissioners, commissioners have either ignored or refused to follow four, are still working on one and had one completed for them when voters approved a ballot question forcing Weld County elected officials to comply with state ethics laws.

The audits were ordered by the council following complaints from employees, residents and car dealerships about wait times and office climate at the clerk's office, as well as accusations of unnecessary spending on conferences and travel and the treatment of county employees by Weld commissioners.

Stille said he was disappointed in the lack of responsiveness to audit recommendations.

"When we spend the people's money in that direction, the people have a right to see results," Stille said.

After the audits were released, commissioners prepared a response that brushed off four of the recommendations as unnecessary. Among those were recommendations to define the commissioner coordinator role — a response to commissioners denying Commissioner Sean Conway a role overseeing a department; a recommendation to create a schedule to regularly review succession planning; and two recommendations related to the county's purchasing policies.

Commissioners have completed two of the recommendations:

» Commissioners spent about $1,000 on recording equipment, and began recording work sessions in December 2017.

» Commissioners say staff has completed and improved its financial dashboard software, work that was already ongoing.

A recommendation encouraging commissioners to pass an ordinance regarding conflicts of interest was addressed via a 2017 ballot measure, and commissioners are working with members of the Weld County Council to develop a whistleblower program in the county.

— Tyler Silvy covers government and politics for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at tsilvy@greeleytribune.com. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.

Audit response

The Tribune received the following information from Weld County when The Tribune requested a list of actions taken by commissioners in response to eight recommendations from an outside auditor:

» Completed

Recommendation 1.2: Record commissioner work sessions to increase transparency.

County response: Recording equipment was purchased at the end of 2017 for $949.00, and the recording of work sessions began Dec. 11. The public can request the audio files from those work sessions by contacting the Clerk to the Board’s Office.

Recommendation 2.1: Continue to improve the county’s financial dashboard.

County response: Complete.

*Work on this was ongoing during the audit process.

Recommendation 2.4: Pass resolution encouraging public officials to disclose perceived conflicts of interest.

County response: The passage of Ballot Question 1B in the November 2017 election addresses this issue. The county attorney will add, and update annually, information about this to the intranet site for county employees.

» In progress

Recommendation 1.4: Develop a whistleblower program.

County response: The Board of County Commissioners had a work session regarding development of a whistleblower program Feb. 21. Weld County Council President Gene Stille has been invited by Commissioner Chairman Steve Moreno to that work session as a representative of the council. Both County Attorney Bruce Barker and Chief Information Officer Ryan Rose have researched other programs and software options and discussed those at this work session.

» No action

Recommendation 1.1: Pass an ordinance defining the commissioner coordinator role.

County response: No further action necessary.

*Commissioners don’t believe they need the ordinance.

Recommendation 1.3: Update succession plan annually.

County response: Succession planning does occur for all department heads and elected officials.

*The auditors wanted this to be regularly scheduled, but commissioners believe the current system works fine.

Recommendation 2.2: Create an ordinance that would deal with significant changes in appropriations.

County response: No further action necessary.

*This recommendation centers on an emergency management training exercise that ended up costing $19,000 more than planned because the county hosted it in Breckenridge.

Recommendation 2.3: Create ordinance that would further define when the county can do sole source purchases.

County response: No further action necessary.

*This recommendation centers on commissioners’ decision to make Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes go through a request-for-proposal process for election equipment despite there being just one state-approved source for the equipment. This left the clerk’s office without the necessary equipment for two months.

*Context provided by The Tribune.