Weld County Council sets salaries, plans audits, fills vacant seat | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld County Council sets salaries, plans audits, fills vacant seat

Catherine Sweeney
csweeney@greeleytribune.com

The Weld County Council spent about four hours Monday afternoon bickering and negotiating, but it ended up getting something done.

Three things, in fact. Members set salaries for the Board of Weld County Commissioners, laid out a plan for two upcoming performance audits and filled the council's vacant seat.

They decided on the salary during a night meeting, where a couple dozen residents turned out.

Although the county commissioners hold the reins on just about every financial decision for Weld, the county council sets the commissioners' salaries. They assign it for a few years out to avoid conflicts of interest. Monday night, the council decided for 2019-20.

“As far as I’m concerned there is not a safe city or town in Colorado where they can have an effect on development in urban areas.

— Lowell Lewis, Triple Creek neighbor

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Today, commissioners make a little more than $80,000. Starting in 2017, salaries will increase to $105,000.

They won't get an increase for 2019-20.

Councilman Brett Abernathy said council members should consider the oil and gas downturn, which will drag property tax income down in the coming years. Weld County has been raking in cash because of its taxes on oil and gas, allowing officials to sponsor major highway projects and scholarship programs, but that's ending as the price per barrel stays lower than it was during the boom.

"We're not going to have surplus income to the county," Abernathy said.

The council agreed it would be wise to avoid a pay increase for the five commissioners.

Councilman Jordan Jemiola discussed some commissioners' decision to reimburse themselves for travel expenses to and from home. The Tribune reported the practice in 2014.

He claimed because the council decides on the commissioners' compensation, the council should be able to nix the reimbursements.

County Attorney Bruce Barker attended the meeting, and during this discussion, he and Jemiola went back and forth. Barker advised the council that the county code doesn't allow the council to control expense spending for commissioners.

Jemiola argued the cut would be in the council's legal arsenal.

At one point, dialogue devolved into: "Yes, it is," "No, it isn't," being repeated a few times.

Although he was slow to do so, Jemiola eventually accepted the attorney's explanation.

Barker isn't the only person Jemiola raised his voice at Monday.

During an afternoon work session, the council discussed parameters for the county commissioners' and clerk and recorder's audit. The plan was to establish the scope of the study so the purchasing department can draw up a bid for the studies.

They ended up coming up with a list of things they wanted an auditor to look at, and they scheduled a meeting to interview auditing firms.

A few months of tumultuous meetings went into the council's decision to order the audits. But one of the reasons the clerk and recorder's office ended up under the microscope was a letter from six auto dealers complaining about slow turnaround on title work.

Warren Yoder of Weld County Garage wrote the letter, and five others signed. Although he has taken credit for coming up with the idea to write it and writing it himself, rumors have been buzzing around about it. Some argue Yoder was pressured. Some argue he didn't write it.

Jemiola perpetuated the rumors during the work session, accusing fellow councilman Don Mueller of going to Yoder's office and requesting him to write the letter.

Conversation got heated as Mueller defended himself.

"I don't believe you," Jemiola told him. "I don't trust you."

Mueller explained during the night meeting that Yoder called him at home, said he had been having problems with the office and asked what he could do. Mueller then told him that as a county councilman, all he could recommend was writing the council a letter.

"I just wanted to clarify that," he said.

Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes attended the meeting and read a letter she sent the council in September. It also addressed the letter from the dealers.

In their letter, the dealers said they had experienced delays in title work, and that at times, it took 90-120 days to get the paperwork in. Koppes worked with the Colorado Department of Revenue and used its data to study the problem.

Once the paperwork got to her office, Koppes said, it was usually complete within an average of 27 days. The delays usually came from the dealers, who could be slow to get the paperwork in, she said. That timeframe ranged from 13 days to 37 days. Even with the latest dealers, the office got the title work in within 60 days, much shorter than the accused 90-120, she said.

She delivered packets of Department of Revenue data to back up her point.

She also discussed meeting with each of the dealers, saying the discussions were productive. The office now plans to communicate with the dealers on a quarterly basis.

Amidst the audit talks, one member, Marge Klein, resigned. She had been recusing herself because Koppes was a client, and without her vote, motion after motion split 2-2.

The four remaining council members interviewed seven candidates during the day meeting Monday. They were all asked similar questions — basic ones, such as whether the candidate is 21 and registered to vote in Weld County, and tougher ones such as his or her opinion on the commissioners' and clerk and recorder's audit.

Although members left the work session in a 2-2 split, Mueller ended up joining Jemiola and Abernathy to vote for their chosen candidate.

They chose Michael Grillos, the president at Karmichael & Company Fire Protection Systems. He's not a familiar face in Weld County politics, and that was the point, members said.

What’s next?

The Weld County Council will interview potential auditing firms about the county commissioners’ and clerk and recorder’s performance reviews on Nov. 7 in the county’s administration building, 1150 O. St. The time is to be determined.