Adams County urges treasurer to account for $215 million

DENVER — Adams County has been on hold with County Treasurer Lisa Culpepper for months now. The commissioners openly questioned whether Culpepper was incompetent, and people who trust him to handle their affairs agree with the commissioners’ line of thinking.

“I sent out five different property tax checks for five different properties that we own in Adams County,” Nancy Ciancio said. “One or two of them got cashed in, and then the others didn’t.”

She tried to contact the Adams County Treasurer’s Office, where county taxes are sent for processing, but was unsuccessful.

“No one was answering the phone at the Adams County Treasurer’s office, so I was leaving messages and never getting an answer,” Ciancio said.

However, she started getting notifications from the treasurer’s office.

“I noticed they had added interest and marked my accounts as overdue because they had lost my checks and so they thought I hadn’t paid when I had paid,” Ciancio said.

According to Adams County Assistant Manager Jim Siedlecki, Ciancio wasn’t the only one dealing with these issues.

“We’ve had dozens of similar complaints,” Siedlecki said.

In October, the county filed a lawsuit against Culpepper, alleging she hadn’t balanced the county’s checkbook since March 2020, which has been overdue for more than a year.

“In the absence of a harder term, there’s $215 million that’s not properly accounted for,” Siedlecki said.

As a result, the state could cut about $2 million in Adams County grants over the next 12 months, and federal grants could also be affected.

“We’re actually in danger now of reporting to the state, reporting to the federal government for grant funding and generally knowing where $215 million is,” Seidlecki said. “No allegation of wrongdoing, just inaccurate and poor accounting.”

Perhaps that’s why people like Ciancio have had to go through a roller coaster to settle their property taxes. It took about four months to settle the case.

In a statement to Denver7, Culpepper’s attorney, J. Kirk McGill, said, among other things:

“The Treasurer says she shares the concerns of Adams County taxpayers about efficient processing of tax payments and record keeping – and has fought for greater resources (both staff and in information technology) to ensure the proper functioning of these functions.

However, the Treasurer’s Office believes that the Adams County Board of Commissioners has withheld these resources in recent years in an effort to usurp the authority of the Treasurer’s Office by making the Treasurer subordinate to the Commissioners (and some members of their staff) and fully beholden to them for resources – which is ultimately bad for the taxpayer as the separation of powers between the treasurer and the BOCC exists to protect them.

The county was mandated to pay Culpepper’s attorney fees, which amounted to more than $130,000 for several months of service.

County attorney Heidi Miller was disqualified in December from representing the county in the case due to a conflict of interest.

As the county’s investigation into Culpepper continues, some property owners like Ciancio will hand-deliver their property taxes to the Treasurer’s Office in April.

About Yvonne Lozier

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