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Pueblo County adopts new ethics code in response to audit

County Courthouse

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Don't lie and don't steal -- it should be common sense, but Pueblo County employees have allegedly had recent issues with these ethical principals.

On Tuesday, the Pueblo County Commissioners unanimously approved an Ethics Center of Government Resolution.

The resolution is modeled after other counties across the state and country. The main premise is to set rules that will require department directors, county leaders, and commissioners to sign an agreement stating they won't lie, cheat, or steal while in their government position.

"This framework is in place to explicitly lay out not just what good and ethical conduct is, but more importantly what enforcement measures are in place if that code of conduct or the public's trust is violated," said Commissioner Garrison Ortiz

According to the 2018 Pueblo County Financial audit, hundred of thousands of taxpayers' dollars were misappropriated to projects not approved by the voters, elected officials, or appropriate supervisors.

The audit claims a total of $339,939 in expenditures were recorded in the excise tax fund that did not meet the criteria established by the Pueblo County voters. Instead, county officials believe much of those funds were directed towards the failed Minor League baseball stadium project along Historic Arkansas Riverwalk.

The financial report, conducted by a third-party accounting firm, says a director-level manager at Pueblo County approved payments to an immediate family member without following County purchasing policies. The contract totaled $28,583. It later stated that the director-level manager inappropriately approved four transactions totaling more than $50,000.

"I know that audit was a betrayal of the public's trust," said Ortiz. "We have a duty and an obligation as elected officials to ensure the government is being run in an open and transparent way."

Ortiz would not say which Pueblo County employees the audit refers to, or if the those employees are currently still working in the county's government. However, Ortiz says if there is a criminal investigation, then any information required by law enforcement is handed over.

The resolution passed unanimously on Tuesday also includes CIRC (Conflicts of Interest Resolution Committee) which is meant to ensure any complaints filed by the public or internally from employees or directors have a clear path to being dealt with.

Also included is a more comprehensive and clear set of whistleblower protection measures. Ortiz claims these are stronger protections for those looking to report perceived ethical misconduct or even criminal activity.

Local News / Pueblo

Dan Beedie

Dan is a bureau reporter based out of Pueblo. Learn more about Dan here.

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