Letters to the Editor

Pueblo DA returns funds to Treasury

To: The Honorable Cary Kennedy
Colorado State Treasurer

Dear Ms. Kennedy,

I do not subscribe to all of the policies adopted by the governor, and, presumably, the Legislature, to reduce the forecasted $320 million shortfall in FY 2009-’10. Nonetheless, I have instructed my staff to determine if state monies are being held by our office so that these funds can be returned to the state, if applicable, to assist in reducing the shortfall.

• State funds held by the Office of the District Attorney, Tenth Judicial District:

A check drawn on Wells Fargo Bank, N.D., payable to “The State of Colorado” in the amount of $18,095 is presented to you in your official capacity as Colorado state treasurer.

This check represents monies due the Colorado attorney general as restitution received by this office relating to a 2003 pyramid scheme prosecution in collaboration with the attorney general, and other state and local law enforcement entities.

On Dec. 22, 2004, our office sent to the attorney general by check (number 23686) this restitution amount. We have discovered that the check has never been negotiated and remains in our account. Accordingly, we are resending this restitution amount to you on behalf of the attorney general.

• State funds owing to the Office of the District Attorney, Tenth Judicial District:

A district attorney is an executive officer of the state. As you know, normally the state funds a portion of a district attorney’s salary. Otherwise, a district attorney’s office is funded by local tax revenue, with some relatively minor reimbursement from the state for certain costs of prosecution.

For example, there are several facilities operated by the Department of Corrections (DOC) within the jurisdiction of the Tenth Judicial District (Pueblo County): Pueblo Minimum Center, San Carlos Correctional Facility and the Youth Offender System, to name a few. Our office prosecutes crimes committed in these state facilities. My interpretation of law is that the cost of prosecuting a case for a crime that has occurred in these state facilities is an obligation of the state. Accordingly, for many years our office has billed the DOC for these costs. Some of the costs have been paid by DOC; other costs remain in arrears (currently in the amount of $2,453.75). I contemplated offsetting this amount due our office from DOC against funds that we have been holding for the Attorney General’s Office. However, some courts prefer that certain statutory mechanisms be implemented before the costs of prosecution can be recovered.

It would behoove all concerned for the Legislature to clarify the law, especially since many counties, including Pueblo County, are experiencing a shortfall of revenue during 2009 — much as the state is experiencing a revenue shortfall. In fact, in the case of Pueblo County, the shortfall of revenue will be a minimum of $3 million (and could reach the $7 million to $9 million mark). A district attorney’s office that is prosecuting crimes committed in state facilities should receive reasonable, timely payment from the state for the costs of prosecution.

• Honoring the state furlough

By law, during calendar year 2009, the state is mandated to fund $80,000 of the per annum salary of a district attorney. The governor’s Executive Order D 015 09 relating to mandatory furloughs for certain state employees cannot apply to a district attorney as an elected public officer (Colo. Const., art XII, section 11). Nevertheless, I am honoring the state furlough as noted below.

Of utmost concern to me is that our state tax policy is not equitable.

As Colorado Senate majority leader earlier this decade, and as a member of the General Assembly for 16 years, I was outspoken about our state’s inequitable tax policy. This includes allowing more than five dozen sales and use tax exemptions dating back to 1935 to remain on the books. If some of the exemptions had been repealed in 2000 (not including sales tax exemptions on food and pharmaceuticals), revenue to the state for that year would have increased by as much as $100 million. If those same exemptions had been repealed in 2009, that figure might be far greater. Most, if not all, of the shortfall could have been plugged by addressing this and other tax inequities.

Of course, a common argument against repealing certain exemptions is that many relate to business, the effects of which stimulate the economy. However, the current budget-balancing plan to eliminate 270 (now 331) full-time equivalent positions, freezing pay raises until at least July 2011 and requiring employees to take four unpaid furlough days this year (with more anticipated in 2010) does not increase a consumer’s purchasing power, does not stimulate the economy and does put an added burden upon our hardworking state employees — forcing some to rely on government-run programs to make ends meet.

One commentator argues that the wage crisis in America is a big reason why rising health care costs are so painful and why a growing number of mortgages end in default.

To the point, I will not participate voluntarily in furlough days by returning a small portion of my state salary to the State Treasury — it would simply be used to continue to perpetuate inequitable tax policy.

Instead, I am honoring the state furlough days by contributing the state portion of my salary for Sept. 8, Oct. 9, Nov. 27 and Dec. 31, 2009, ($1,230.76 [$307.69/day x4]) to the dedicated and hardworking employees of the Office of the District Attorney for the Tenth Judicial District.

Sincerely,

Bill Thiebaut
District Attorney
Tenth Judicial District (Pueblo)

Cc: John Suthers, Colorado attorney general; Ari Zavaras, executive director, Colorado Department of Corrections; Sens. Abel Tapia, Ken Kester; Reps. Buffie McFadyen, Sal Pace, Ed Vigil, Tom Massey; Pueblo County Commissioners Jeff Chostner, Anthony Nuñez, John Cordova