Aug 14, 2017
DENVER (August 14, 2017) – Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, directed the City Attorney’s Office to seek a ruling from the Colorado District Court declaring the Auditor’s right to audit Denver County Courts (DCC) and compelling the DCC to produce documents and grant access to court personnel as part of an ongoing audit.
On June 1st, Auditor O’Brien and his staff met with DCC Presiding Judge Theresa Spahn to begin the process of auditing County Court operations. At that meeting, the DCC made no objection to the audit. After months of delays and failing to cooperate with requests from the Auditor’s Office, the DCC informed the Auditor’s Office its prior cooperation was voluntary. Counsel for the DCC stated, “The Denver County Court is a separate branch of government, and the Charter does not state that the Auditor’s Office has authority over the Denver County Court.”
“The City Charter states the Auditor shall conduct financial and performance audits of the City and County. The Courts are undeniably part of the City and County,” Auditor O’Brien said.
The DCC has refused to provide any further documents or schedule any interviews until the “separation of powers issue” is resolved. The Auditor’s Office has learned the DCC has sought and been granted permission from the City Attorney’s Office to hire Davis, Graham & Stubbs LLP as outside counsel to dispute the Auditor’s right to audit.
“The Courts have had notice of this planned audit since October 2016, and now the delays are impeding our ability to conduct this audit,” Deputy Auditor Valerie Walling said.
The Denver Charter and Revised Municipal Code require the Auditor to conduct financial and performance audits. Denver law further grants the Auditor’s Office access to city records, officers, employees, and property to perform audit duties.
The DCC receives an annual appropriation of approximately $24 million from the City and County of Denver’s General Fund. In addition, the DCC collects more than $23 million a year in revenue for the city.
“The Courts are not exempt from government accountability,” Auditor O’Brien said.
Since his election, Auditor O’Brien has received similar resistance from other city agencies, including the Denver Zoo and the Department of Human Services. In every instance, the Auditor’s Office has been granted access to audit the resistant agency.
“I do not want to disrupt the Courts. I only want to ensure my office has the unfettered access to audit the entire city as granted by law,” Auditor O’Brien said. “The goal of a transparent government must apply to every branch of government.”
“Auditor says Denver County court system is refusing to be audited” – The Denver Post – August 14, 2017
“Denver County Courts don’t want to open their books for Auditor O’Brien” – Denverite – August 15, 2017
“Denver County court system says it is ‘fully committed to financial transparency,’ wants to meet with auditor” – The Denver Post – August 16, 2017
Colorado Public Radio broadcasts on County Courts lawsuit – CPR – August 14&15, 2017