Bill to end 10 governor patronage jobs heads to full Colorado House

Denver Post file photoEl Paso County Public Trustee Thomas Mowle, left, would be replaced by the county treasurer if a bill seeking to end a century-old practice is passed. Logan County Treasurer Patty Bartlett, right, already is the public trustee for her county.

A bill to strip nearly a dozen century-old patronage appointments from the governor’s office passed a key state Senate committee Monday, the result of key support from Colorado’s top politicos.

The bill — HB19-1295 — aims to convert the 10 county public trustees appointed by the governor to positions held by county-elected treasurers by July 2020.

It passed the House Transportation and Local Government Committee by an 8-3 margin and is headed to the full House.

Public trustees run the state’s foreclosure system, handling deeds of trust and the auctions that sell the houses impacted by them. None of the affected 10 trustees appeared before the committee, nor did the Colorado Public Trustee Association.

The appointed trustees operate autonomously, answering only to the governor, although their budgets are reviewed by commissioners in the counties they serve. In 52 of the state’s other counties, the trustee job is done by its elected treasurer. Denver’s is held by its elected clerk and recorder, and Broomfield County commissioners appoint theirs.

The 10 trustee jobs have been political appointments since the turn of the last century. Each serves a four-year term and can be reappointed indefinitely.

Efforts to ditch the appointments have been attempted unsuccessfully three times over the past seven years, largely the result of a 2012 Denver Post investigation into the trustee offices that led to the forced resignation of all 10 appointees. Unlike previous efforts, the current bill carries the support of Gov. Jared Polis and House Speaker KC Becker, and comes about a year after financial crises in the Boulder Public Trustee’s office nearly gutted that office.

“We appreciate that traditionally governors have been hesitant to give up this function of their office, but Gov. Polis is committed to effective governance and local control,” Polis’ office said in a statement to The Denver Post last week. “He supports this policy because he believes county governments are well-positioned to execute these duties for their communities.”

And with the number of foreclosures in Colorado at their lowest level in at least 15 years, legislators are questioning why the appointees — each of whom is paid $72,500 a year – are even needed anymore. The affected trustees are in Weld, Mesa, El Paso, Douglas, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Boulder, Pueblo, Adams and Larimer counties.

“Why did it take so long? I think it’s hard for a governor to give them up,” Becker told The Post in an interview. “There’s no real oversight for the trustees in those 10 offices, and there should be more accountability to the voters and residents.”

If passed, the county treasurers who take on the public trustee job would receive a $12,500 yearly stipend, which the other 52 elected treasurers already receive for doing the trustee function.

“This is just an antiquated law of political patronage, …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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