Don’t delay action on public trustees

State Rep. Ray Scott is absolutely correct in one respect. Legislation to eliminate the appointed posts of public trustee in Colorado’s 10 largest counties needs to proceed quickly in next year’s legislative session.

We commend Scott for his persistence and willingness to pursue that goal, which we have long argued is necessary.

But we disagree with Scott that Gov. John Hickenlooper should delay replacing the 10 trustees — who all resigned last week, effective in 30 days — until legislation to do away with the jobs is passed next year.,

We believe it is important for the governor to appoint replacements for each of the trustees before the 30 days have ended. And there is a sound precedent for doing so in a manner that moves the public trustees’ jobs toward the goal that Scott hopes to achieve.

He should appoint county treasurers to assume the responsibilities of the public trustees’ offices. Allow the treasurers to hire whatever employees from the trustees’ offices they believe are needed to fulfill those responsibilities.

After all, county treasurers handle the duties of the public trustees in most of the counties of the state.

The precedent for turning those duties back over to county treasurers was established in Mesa County in the early 1990s. That’s when the county’s first public trustee, appointed by then-Gov. Roy Romer, resigned.

In response to a request from the Mesa County commissioners at the time, Romer then returned the public trustee’s duties to the county treasurer.

Hickenlooper could follow Romer’s lead and do the same with the 10 public trustee posts that will soon be vacant.

Then Scott could push new legislation in January to eliminate permanently the public trustees’ offices and formally transfer their duties to county treasurers in the state’s 10 largest counties, just as is the case in the smaller counties of Colorado.

Of course, there is no guarantee that such legislation will pass. Scott’s efforts to pass a bill this year to allow county commissioners to decide whether to have an appointed public trustee for their counties were blocked by other lawmakers, and he settled for a compromise bill.

We hope there will be more support in the Legislature for such a bill next year, especially given the news reports in both The Daily Sentinel and The Denver Post that have highlighted a multitude of problems with the public trustees’ offices across the state.

But, while we wait to see what the Legislature will do, Gov. Hickenlooper should waste no time in appointing replacements for the 10 who have resigned. And, wherever there is agreement with the county officials, he should appoint treasurers to replace them.


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