Scott sees support growing for public trustees bill

Rep. Ray Scott has a fourth county that wants to fold its public trustee position into its treasurer’s office, and hopes to see three more come onboard, the Grand Junction Republican said.

Under current law, the 11 largest counties in the state have separate public trustees, who are appointed by the governor. The elected treasurers in the remaining 53 counties handle public-trustee duties, which primarily are to handle foreclosure sales.

Scott’s measure, House Bill 1329, would allow three of those larger counties to turn those duties over to their publicly elected county treasurers.

As the bill is written now, that would include Mesa, Weld and El Paso counties, but Scott said officials in Douglas County now have asked to be included in the bill. He said he also is talking to county commissioners and treasurers in Arapahoe, Larimer and Jefferson counties who are considering inclusion in the bill.

As a result of that interest, an effort is afoot to alter the bill, Scott said.

Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, has an amendment he hopes will appease the counties without having to do away with the positions. The amendment is designed to bring more accountability to how they operate, including requiring routine state audits of their work.

But Scott said that’s not the point of his bill.

“The reason for the bill is to do away with government offices that we don’t need,” Scott said. “I haven’t seen a copy of his amendment, so I’m not sure what they’re up to. We don’t expect any opposition from other counties because it doesn’t affect them. It’s only for counties that want to do it.”

The freshman lawmaker said he spoke to staff members of the governor’s office and that they seemed to like the idea of doing away with the trustee offices. Still, said Scott, he’s unsure whether that means Gov. John Hickenlooper will support it.

The bill, which is to be heard in the House Local Government Committee, was slated for review today, but that’s been put off another week while the House debates next year’s budget.

Some members of that committee, which is chaired by Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, said they’re awaiting public testimony on the bill to understand what impact it might have.

“Larger counties have trustees because it’s a full-time position,” said Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, a committee member whose county is one of the 11, but not one that would opt out. “In positions like this, there’s always a question of the virtues of trying to determine which positions should be appointed and which should be elected.”

By law, the counties pay all expenses of governor-appointed public trustees, but are allowed to retain any surplus money earned from foreclosure sales, which are paid by banks and foreclosure attorneys.

Doing away with them would save the counties $120,000 to $150,000 a year, according to a fiscal analysis of Scott’s bill.


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