Governor takes stand against trustees’ abuses

Gov. John Hickenlooper did the right thing in response to news reports about questionable spending and misdeeds by public trustees in Colorado’s 10 largest counties: He demanded and accepted the resignations of all 10, including Mesa County’s Paul Brown.

The resignations are effective in 30 days, and the 10 are eligible to reapply for their positions. The governor did not say whether he will reappoint any of them.

There should be no question about Brown. He does not deserve to be reappointed.

Brown has clearly failed to meet the governor’s requirement that public trustees “conduct their business in a way that is legal, ethical and avoids even the appearance of impropriety.”

Brown acknowledged to Denver Post business reporter David Migoya that he held a bogus bidding process last October.

That’s when Brown put out a request for proposals to various newspapers to submit bids for printing foreclosure notices. However, that RFP came a month after Brown had signed a contract with Front Range publisher Robert Sweeney, publisher of the Palisade Tribune, to print the foreclosure notices.

Brown admitted to Migoya that it was “disingenuous” for him to make a public request for proposals when he had already signed a contract for foreclosure notices.

The governor last week announced new guidelines that each of the appointed trustees must follow. Tuesday’s action came after Migoya published the results of an investigation of the public trustees. Migoya found problems or questionable practices with a half-dozen trustees.

He discovered that one public trustee rents office space from a company he and his law partners own. Another receives a commission on insurance sales for himself and his employees. Other public trustees have authorized cars, parties and personal items through their official budgets.

“We all have to stand for good government,” Hickenlooper said upon announcing the resignations. “That means maintaining the public’s trust and wherever possible avoiding even the appearance of any impropriety.”

Many readers are aware that The Daily Sentinel has a business stake in this, because Brown’s finagling with the foreclosure notices cost this newspaper a long-held contract.

But long before Brown was appointed, the Sentinel had argued that the appointed position of public trustee should be eliminated in Colorado. The trustees’ duties should be assumed by county treasurers, just as they are in all of the smaller counties in the state. Treasurers must stand for election.

We appreciate state Rep. Ray Scott’s legislative efforts to move in that direction. We still believe that is the best, long-term solution to the problems created by public trustees.

But we applaud the governor for taking decisive action in response to the problems Migoya found. It is the right thing for Colorado and for those who do business with public trustees.


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