Hot Sheet

Dear Madame Clerk and Recorder: Please resign

Author: Dan Njegomir - April 11, 2018 - Updated: April 11, 2018

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Fremont County Clerk Katie Barr, left, in 2014 with Elections Director Jami Goff. (Photo courtesy of fremontco.com)

Hot Sheet’s Kara Mason reported last month on the arrest of Fremont County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr on embezzlement and other charges. Her legal travails stemmed from an alleged check-kiting scheme that law enforcement officials say she ran through the clerk’s office. The stunning allegations culminating in Barr’s arrest have rocked the county and, according to other elected officials, have demoralized the clerk’s office staff.

However things turn out for Barr in the court system, you’d think the first order of business for Fremont County government would be to pick a new clerk. It’s a critical post, after all, among other duties overseeing county, state and school board elections for the county.

Problem is, Barr so far hasn’t resigned. She even remained a candidate for re-election despite the arrest, as Mason noted. And until and unless she is convicted, she can’t be removed from office.

As the Pueblo Chieftain reports this week, the stalemate prompted Fremont County commissioners on Tuesday to vote for a “no confidence” finding regarding Barr’s continued presence in the clerk’s office. Commissioners also presented Barr with a letter last week asking her to step aside. They shared their letter with the press, which the Chieftain’s Tracy Harmon quotes at length:

‘Although official charges have not been filed, your arrest affidavit includes accusations of multiple felonies as well as misdemeanors. This case could linger on in the court system for months while continuing to damage the county’s reputation,’ the letter reads.

‘Employees in the clerk and recorder’s office are in an untenable situation since they are the very people you are accused of intimidating. They are working incredibly hard every single day to defend the job they do, while assuring customers they are not going to steal public money — your employees deserve better,’ the letter reads.

And this:

‘Your sporadic attendance at work since the end of September when the investigation surrounding your eventual arrest began, proves you are not serious about doing your job. This controversy is hurting everyone in Fremont County.

‘The public no longer should be forced to fund extended vacation time for you,’ the letter reads.

Harmon recaps details of the criminal allegations against Barr:

Barr was arrested March 20 for investigation of felony embezzlement of public funds, witness intimidation, fraud by check and misdemeanor harassment. She is due to return to court for filing of charges April 18.

According to an affidavit, Barr, 37, had written numerous checks to various financial establishments where she and her husband Chad Barr, who owns Rocky Mountain Auto and Diesel, had insufficient funds. The affidavit alleges the activity started in January 2011 after Barr had been elected county clerk in November 2010.

She allegedly developed a “check kiting” scheme that would allow her to write personal checks, obtain cash from the clerk’s office and deposit the cash into a personal account to cover the previously written personal checks. The scheme allegedly involved 254 checks which totaled $238,804.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.