The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that Brita Horn, the elected Republican treasurer of Routt County who is running to be the next treasurer of Colorado, is once again facing off with officials in her own county over how she runs her office. According the the Pilot & Today’s Scott Franz, “the work environment and top management at the county treasurer’s office” are being called out in a memo sent to Routt County’s human resources department.
The memo, which outlined the observations of Yampa Valley Regional Airport Director Kevin Booth, Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins and Clerk and Recorder Recording Supervisor Barb Houston, stated the three officials walked away from a grievance hearing for a treasurer’s office employee thinking “there is reason for concern about fair and equitable treatment of (treasurer’s office) employees below the level of Chief Deputy Treasurer.”
The memo raises serious questions about Treasurer Brita Horn’s leadership of the office at a time she is seeking higher office in the state as Colorado’s treasurer.
Horn had clashed with her county government over another matter just last August. As Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning explained in a report at the time:
The problem … involved a computer system that calculates how much of the tax revenue the county collects gets distributed to the county, towns, schools, libraries and other taxing entities within its boundaries. When it came time for Horn’s office to send out checks for April tax receipts, it turns out, she only distributed money from a nine-day period, instead of the whole month, leaving $5.8 million sitting in treasurer coffers until July, when the error was discovered and the funds delivered.
The mistake that left local taxing entities short nearly $6 million for months. Horn told Luning then, “…not one dime of Routt County tax dollars was lost or misspent or that one Routt County program lost even one dime … And I definitely take responsibility that this issue has been corrected and, moving forward, will never happen again.”
Horn also responded to her latest round in the hot seat. Reports the Pilot & Today’s Franz:
…Horn defended the work environment at her office and said there is a “strong moral fiber” among current members of the staff.
Horn blamed a major property tax distribution error on (former county treasurer’s office employee Rani) Gilbert and fired her for other reasons, but Gilbert contested the firing and alleged unfair treatment and discrimination under Horn’s leadership.
Franz also offers more details of the latest criticism leveled at Horn:
The officials wrote in the memo they had heard enough evidence at the private grievance hearing to “substantiate reason for concern that employees below the level of Chief Deputy Treasurer fear retaliation from their supervisors if they question the actions, methods and/or directives of their supervisors.”
The officials also stated in the memo the county should be concerned about whether the workload distribution in the treasurer’s office is equitable, whether supervisors and bookkeepers have adequate training and whether Treasurer Brita Horn has adopted adequate checks and balances in the wake of a nearly $6 million property tax error her office made this summer.
In the state treasurer’s race, Horn so far is vying with five other Republicans for the GOP nomination: Brett Barkey (who is district attorney of Grand, Moffat and Routt counties), state Rep, Justin Everett, state Rep. Polly Lawrence, state Sen. Kevin Lundberg and Brian Watson. On the Democratic side of the ledger, state Rep. Steve Lebsock — in hot water over widely reported sexual-harassment allegations — state Rep. Dave Young and Bernard Douthit are running for the treasurer’s post.