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Former treasurer says she had nothing to do with sheriff's office account

Former treasurer says she had nothing to do with account

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - A former El Paso County treasurer says she knew nothing about an El Paso County Sheriff's Office civil account, even though the Sheriff's Office claims she did.

Sandra Damron was the treasurer in 2006 when the Sheriff's Office created the fund.  Because the fund was not created through the treasurer's office, it was never subject to county audits and was never included in year-end financial statements from the county.  A source close to the situation tells KRDO NewsChannel 13 that the FBI and CBI are now investigating.

According to county spokesperson Dave Rose, the fund is a special holdings fund.  It holds fees that are paid to Sheriff's Office deputies to pay for paperwork in civil court cases. The money is held in that fund until the service is complete. If the Sheriff's Office cannot serve the papers, the funds are refunded to the people who paid the fees, Rose said. When the fund exceeds a certain amount, money goes into the county's general fund.

The Sheriff's Office said the fund has been in existence for about 20 years, and that the county's treasurers were aware of the fund because the office sent monthly checks from the fund to the treasurers since 1995.

But the current treasurer, Bob Balink, says the treasurer's office knew nothing about the account. His office noticed the anomaly when an "unusually large transfer" of funds appeared from the Sheriff's Office in 2013. When they looked into it, they discovered a bank account containing about $1 million that they knew nothing about.  Balink said he asked the comptroller, Dorene Cardarelle, about the account and "she wouldn't share any more information" and "she wouldn't answer any more questions."  Balink said he also asked Maketa about the account and he "was a little upset" to be asked.

Cardarelle is one of three women El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is accused of having inappropriate relationships with in his office.  Hundreds of intimate texts and emails have surfaced that document his relationship with Cardarelle.

A spokesperson with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office wrote to KRDO NewsChannel 13:

"When the comptroller was asked about it by the treasurer's office she simply told them they needed to speak with the sheriff. This was due to the fact she was aware that conversations had already taken place between the sheriff, county finance and the county administrator."

When asked why the account wasn't created through the treasurer's office, the spokesperson wrote:

"Although Sheriff Maketa directed his staff to work with then County Treasurer, Sandra Damron, when the new account was opened in 2006, he believes they may have worked with County Finance instead; however, through his own conversations, the Sheriff is aware Ms. Damron had knowledge of the account."

Damron told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that she knew nothing about the fund.

"I was a little bit surprised that someone had said that," Damron said.  "I wasn't sure where that information had come from."

Damron said after speaking with Maketa Wednesday, she believes he directed his staff to create the account with her, but they did not.

By law, the treasurer's office is to take care of all monies for the county.  But because the money in the civil fund may be refunded, it is unclear whether the account would fall into that category, according to Damron.

According to the Sheriff's Office, computer software glitches caused incorrect amounts to be sent to the treasurer's office each month and also caused the account balance to rise.  The Sheriff's Office says large checks were written to the treasurer's office over several years, including ones for $100,000, $400,000, and the account now runs a balance of about $50,000.

The potential problem, according to Rose and the treasurer's office, is accountability.

"The county has very rigorous accounting standards and this fund did not come under those standards," Rose said.  "At this time, the funds in that account have not been audited through the standard county auditing process."

Rose said that the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners sent a request to all county offices, asking them to create all accounts through the treasurer's office for proper oversight.

"As far as we know, all offices except the Sheriff's Office responded to that request," Rose said.

Damron said she believes that computer glitches are to blame for the errors, but that the account should still be placed under the authority of the treasurer's office.

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