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Stapleton’s office disputes Democrats’ claim of delay on rural Colo. bill

Author: Joey Bunch - July 23, 2018 - Updated: July 24, 2018

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treasurerState Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, at left, questions Ryan Parsell, the deputy state treasurer, during a legislative hearing at the Capitol Monday. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Ryan Parsell, deputy to State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, went before a Colorado legislative committee Monday to swat down a characterization that Stapleton’s office delayed issuing lease-purchase certificates for investors, a wonky assertion with campaign-season undertones.

Stapleton is the Republican candidate for governor.

Democratic Reps. Daneya Esgar of Pueblo and Chris Hansen of Denver, members of the legislature’s joint Capital Development Committee, sent a letter to Stapleton last week asking him to come before the committee. They wanted to know why the certificates of participation (COPs) weren’t sold to investors at the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1, the earliest allowable date. The law, however, gives the office until the end of the fiscal year next June to complete the sale.

The COPs will be sold on Sept. 26, Parsell told tthe committee. When Senate Bill 267 was passed to raise nearly $2 billion for transportation and other projects in rural Colorado, as well as for buildings on college campuses, it gave the treasurer’s office until the end of the fiscal year to sell the bonds.

Parsell said lawyers had disagreed about the potential impact of a lingering lawsuit, and the treasurer’s office disagreed and moved ahead to find a new lawyer with a different opinion to get the deal moving.

“All parties have been working hard and continuously on this transaction since the legislative session concluded last year,” Parsell said. “The treasurer’s office has not made a decision to delay the transaction. The exact opposite is true.”

The first round of COPs is expected to generate $380 million for transportation and $119 million for “high priority” capital construction and maintenance projects, mostly in rural Colorado.

Stapleton’s office and Republicans on the capital committee pointed out the politics of the situation, as Democrats working on the gubernatorial campaign have sought to portray Stapleton as an absentee treasurer who has made mistakes on the campaign trail, as well dubbing him “Walker Stumbleton.”

Stapleton’s campaign has refused to comment on the dustup with the House Democrats.

With TV cameras and reporters in the room, who were notified of the letter to Stapleton last week and reminded about the meeting Sunday by the House Democratic press office, Hansen said he was displeased that Stapleton sent his deputy to address the committee instead of showing up in person.

“It’s been my observation after two years in the legislature that the treasurer has not shown up in front of the legislature and continues to not do that today,” Hansen said. “Why is the state treasurer not here? What does he have going on that’s more important than this transaction?”

Parsell said he personally had been the lead person in the office working on the deal.

“Since I’m the one with the details (and) I’m the one who’s been working on this, I’m the one who volunteered to be here,” he said.

Esgar and Hansen said Monday that the delay, using their term, cost taxpayers money, because interest and construction costs are rising during the nearly three months before the investments go on sale.

“My question is: How does the treasurer’s office think about those financial impacts, what that taken into account in the cost-benefit of delaying this until the end of September,” Hansen asked.

Parsell replied, “I don’t see any way we could have accelerated beyond our current timeline given the developments that happened outside anyone in the treasurer’s office’s control.”

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican from Sterling, one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 267, said delays for due diligence and estimates on costs are common, so making such a request to Stapleton’s office is unusual.

Rep. Jon Becker, a Republican from Fort Morgan, called the request for added costs “a political football.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.