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Routt treasurer — seeking state post — faces questions over snafu by her office

Author: Dan Njegomir - August 2, 2017 - Updated: August 2, 2017

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Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, a candidate for the Republican nomination for state treasurer, poses in front of the state treasurer's office at the Colorado Capitol in this undated photograph provided by her campaign. (Photo courtesy Horn campaign)Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, a candidate for the Republican nomination for state treasurer, in front of the state treasurer’s office at the Colorado Capitol. (Photo courtesy Horn campaign)

Schools, libraries and other public services in Routt County were shorted millions of dollars in tax revenue for months due to an error by the county treasurer’s office, and questions about the snafu are now dogging county Treasurer Brita Horn — who is campaigning for state treasurer.

Steamboat Today reported on Tuesday that Horn acknowledged and took responsibility for the episode in a July 20 letter to the more than 100 taxing entities that were affected. But the newspaper said she declined as recently as Tuesday to explain how the breakdown occurred, “…other than to make references to a software vendor and a personnel issue she said she couldn’t discuss in public.”

The office had failed to distribute a total of some $5.8 million that had been collected through the various public entities. All the entities in question have since been made whole, but it took until July 24 — well over two months late.

Routt County commissioners, among others, want answers:

The commissioners have now sent two letters to Horn in recent days seeking answers about the incomplete tax payments.

In the second letter, sent late Tuesday afternoon, the commissioners took a stronger tone and called Horn’s previous responses to their questions in a Friday letter as “unacceptable.”

Horn responded to the initial letter from the commissioners by saying in an email her office is “taking this issue seriously and we will get back to you and the BCC as soon as we can with how the treasurers’ office will be handling the situation at hand.”

Affected tax entities left in the lurch included the likes of the Hayden School District, which had to go without over a half-million dollars during the period in question.

(The school district’s) Finance Director Jnl Linsacum said before the mistake was discovered, the district borrowed some money from an interest-free loan program and was also considering reaching out to the Colorado Department of Education about a contingency loan.

The Steamboat Today account says Horn :vowed the mistake wouldn’t happen again”:

“I don’t call it an issue, I call it a concern,” Horn said of the incomplete payments. “Routt County has some of the most amazing people that work for the citizens, and we’re finding these people are humans and make mistakes. I definitely take responsibility for the staff, and I’m ensuring it’s not going to happen again.”

Horn announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for state treasurer in June.

“I’m the grassroots girl on the ground who will roll up her sleeves and start looking for solutions that’ll work for everyday Coloradans,” she said at the time.

Three other Republicans are also in the running: state Rep. Justin Everett of Littleton, state Rep. Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park, and state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, of Berthoud. State Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton is the only Democrat so far in the race.

The current state treasurer, Republican Walker Stapleton, is term-limited and is expected to run for governor.

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.