Offices of sheriff, treasurer release statements on 'mystery' account in EPC

Situation leads to changes in county departments' auditing

EPC Sheriff, Treasurer at Odds Over 'Mystery' Account

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - The Sheriff's Office and the treasurer in El Paso County are at odds over the existence of a $1 million "mystery" account within the office.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 first reported about the account on Tuesday, citing information received from an inside source.

The Sheriff's Office and treasurer Bob Balink released statements late Wednesday afternoon on the matter.

According to the Sheriff's Office and county spokesman Dave Rose, the account is a legitimate, special fund used to pay deputies who serve papers in civil court cases.

"Fees are held until the service is complete," Rose said.  "The fees are refunded if papers aren't served.  Sometimes, the excess money goes into the county general fund."

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

"In the past, county auditors have indicated that under certain, rare circumstances, special funds could exist outside of the county general fund process," Rose said.  "This fund apparently was set up under that process."

However, Rose said most of the money from the fund ultimately reaches the general fund, although the Sheriff's Office has yet to officially respond to requests from county commissioners to allow them to review the entire fund.

"The concern is that (this kind of fund) is not subject to the annual county review, budget and audit process," Rose said.

Beginning in 2006, the Sheriff's Office said, outdated software caused the balance of the fund -- described as about $50,000 usually -- to appear as high as $400,000.  That led the treasurer, Bob Balink, to question the fund last year and receive what he said was a cold response from Sheriff Terry Maketa.

The Sheriff's Office release accused Balink of claiming that Maketa had set up an illegal account, a charge that Maketa denied.

Balink, in his release said:  

"There is quite clearly a growing discontent with government at all levels.  The public has the right to demand the highest level of integrity from their elected officials and everyone in government.  Many of us are working very hard to honor the trust given to us.  And when that trust is questioned we should all be concerned and we should all work harder to restore that trust."

Rose said there are several special funds similar to the civil court fund in the Sheriff's Office.  As a result, commissioners plan to vote next week on a measure to require all county departments to submit all financial records to the normal auditing process.

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