Chuck McConnell: The real story about the rift between the treasurer and commission
December 22, 2017
After reading the "Our View" editorial in Wednesday's Steamboat Today titled "Why can't we all get along?" it occurred to me that the editorial staff and the voters need to hear the rest of the story. This opinion piece details a one-sided story about the rift between the county commissioners and County Treasurer Brita Horn.
This story and several others that have been recently published are biased and unfair to Treasurer Horn. In every relationship it takes a concerted effort on the part of both parties to get along. Your stories have not reported to the citizens of Routt County the contribution to this rift by the county commissioners.
Brita Horn was elected treasurer of Routt County by the people in 2014. Prior to her election, she served two years as treasurer after being appointed to the position by a bipartisan trio of county commissioners.
Obviously the voters respected her and agreed that her performance warranted electing her to a four- year term. One change in the Board of County Commissioners has been the addition of Commissioner Cari Hermacinski.
As an independent elected office, the treasurer is only responsible to the citizens and to upholding state statutes. From what I have read in our newspaper, it appears as though the BCC believes the treasurer reports to them. They have attempted to direct the operations of the Treasurer’s Office on numerous occasions. This obsession for control is the nucleus of the rift.
This confrontation began with the bankruptcy filing by Peabody Energy, owner of Twentymile Coal Mine. It continued through the commissioners’ decision to establish a PayPal account in the personal name of one of the commissioners and has escalated since to the recent legal representation issue.
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Concerning Peabody Energy, Treasurer Horn determined to follow state statutes, refused to accept a short-payment despite pressure from the BBC both in person and through the press. Unwilling to bend to political pressure, she had a determined commitment to the law and the citizens of Routt County.
Treasurer Horn successfully secured all taxes due, with all interest, as well as all legal fees from Peabody Energy. This is a treasurer for the people!
When Treasurer Horn first took office, she discovered taxpayer funds from many years had been stolen. She moved immediately to stop the bleeding. This action certainly caused some tension but how can she be criticized for her actions? I know with certainty the voters did not approve of this loss of their tax funds.
The Steamboat Today editorial also throws blame at Treasurer Horn for not providing advance notice to the BCC of a forthcoming $12,000 supplemental budget request. The supplemental budget request followed all established guidelines and policy set forth by the county.
The BCC approved the contract in question with her attorneys in 2016. In July, County Manager Tom Sullivan suggested to Brita to contact her attorney. How on earth is it OK for the commissioners to criticize Treasurer Horn publicly but ignore her following their own guidelines?
The editorial quote from Commissioner Corrigan rings true with me when he stated, "…the part that disappoints me the most is our collective failure to communicate better…" The key word is collective.
Corrigan recognizes and admits the communication failure as being in part the fault of the Commissioners. The Today editorial places all the blame squarely on Treasurer Horn. Is that fair? No, it is not.
The Steamboat Today has long had a policy of not taking sides in political campaigns. This unfounded criticism of Treasurer Horn puts her in an undeserved negative light. The editorial board of the Steamboat Today must know that negative press will hurt her politically. Intentional?
Perhaps. Or, is this a way to diminish a state candidate because she is a woman running against nearly all male competitors? You be the judge.
English author Evelyn Beatrice Hall said it best, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That expresses the brilliance of America's dedication to free speech and our First Constitutional Amendment.
A public newspaper that thrives with this right must also accept the obligation to tell the entire story. This Steamboat Today editorial failed in that obligation. You now have the facts.