Public trustee measure altered in compromise, would add oversight

DENVER — The state’s governor-appointed public trustees would remain, but they would have more local and state oversight over how they conduct business under a bill approved in a House committee Monday.

Instead of turning public trustee duties over to county treasurers in some counties, as House Bill 1329 initially required, all 11 public trustees in the state appointed by the governor, including Mesa County Public Trustee Paul Brown, would have three new requirements:

■ Get approval of their annual budgets by county commissioners.

■ Be reviewed by the Office of the State Auditor every two years, and have those audits open to the public.

■ Abide by the state or county’s procurement codes, which require an extensive bidding process for all purchases and service contracts worth $20,000 or more.

Even though he isn’t a member of the House Local Government Committee that unanimously approved the bill, Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, worked a compromise with Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, the bill’s sponsor, to change the measure from one that would have allowed counties to get rid of their trustees to one that required closer scrutiny of them.

“Did everyone get everything they possibly wanted out of this? Probably not,” Pabon told the committee. “If everyone’s a little unhappy, then we probably have the right compromise.”

As the bill is written now, the measure would allow county commissioners to have complete control over the trustees’ budget.

As a result, Pabon said there may be additional changes to ensure that control is limited to up-or-down approval of those trustee budgets, meaning the two entities would have to come to some sort of consensus.

By law, trustees’ budgets are funded through fees paid by foreclosure attorneys and banks. While all their expenses are borne by counties, the counties receive any surplus revenue the trustees collect from those fees.

Expenses became an issue for Mesa County commissioners and Brown, who rejected then later agreed to move into county office space to save money.

Currently, Brown is renting private office space on Main Street. Last year, Brown spent about $28,000 on rent and other office expenses.

Scott said the measure helps settle such expense issues while providing far more oversight of the trustees, including how they enter into service agreements for such things as advertising public notices.

The measure heads to the full House for more debate.


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