An Open Records Act request by Daily Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby examining expenditures by Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland and County Attorney Todd Starr over the last year found both made questionable purchases that arguably violated County policy.
Rowland and Starr charged Public Health Department Jeff Kuhr with doing the same thing, but in his case they called it a fireable offense.
County employees are not allowed to use a County credit card for out-of-town trips. Instead, they are supposed to get a per-diem (a fixed daily allowance) for their expenses.
Use of County credit card for out of town trips, and spending taxpayer funds on parties
In spite of this policy, the Sentinel discovered Todd Starr himself used a County credit card on three out-of-town trips within the past year, to pay for hotel rooms and meals. Last November Starr attended a meeting in Colorado Springs, where he used his county credit card to pay a total of $1,051 for lodging at the upscale Antlers Hotel, and $52.62 for a meal. Rooms at the Antlers cost $225-$250/night, while rooms at Colorado Springs LA Quinta — a suitable alternative for a public employee — cost $101-$121 — less than half the amount Starr spent.
The commissioners have also reprimanded Kuhr for having missing receipts.
A $49,000 “forensic audit” the County had done on Kuhr found he had 45 missing receipts out of 1,912 transactions over 12 years as Director of the Public Health Department. About half of those were for parking meters, which don’t provide receipts.
Starr had two missing receipts last year. One on April 15 was for $111.
Rowland used her county credit card at two separate hotels to attend a National Association of Counties conference in Washington, D.C. One charge was for the same night for a room she never used.
Rowland had taxpayers pay Warehouse 25SixtyFive a 45% tip for a $1,241 after-hours Christmas Party
Rowland also reprimanded Kuhr for spending money on team-building meetings for his staff at local restaurants, but Rowland herself spent $1,241 in taxpayer funds on an after-hours Christmas party for county employees at Warehouse 25SixtyFive Kitchen & Bar on Dec. 1, 2022.
The tab was so high because Rowland left a 45% tip.
The Sentinel writes,
“From June 2022 to earlier this month, Rowland spent a total of $8,437 on her county credit card and Starr spent more than $11,000. By comparison, Kuhr spent about $1,866 during that same period.”
Read the entire article in the Daily Sentinel about Rowland’s and Starr’s expenditures here.
The Sentinel also published an editorial today based on their findings, writing,
“If Kuhr’s mishandling of a credit card and receipts is a fireable offense — and Rowland and Starr have certainly insisted that it is — then they [Rowland and Starr] both need to resign immediately.”
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