Theft security, motor vehicle services drive Garfield County Clerk & Recorder debate
A string of embezzlement cases in the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office from 2012 to 2015, and what’s been done since then by incumbent Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico to prevent it from happening again, is among the issues being debated by her and her opponent in the fall campaign.
Republican Bonnie McLean is challenging Alberico, a third-term Democrat, and has said she intends to “restore integrity” to the office, which handles everything from motor vehicle registrations and marriage licenses, to recording real estate transactions and running Garfield County elections.
Alberico said that after two of her deputy clerks were brought up on embezzlement charges in 2012 and 2014, outside experts and a forensic examiner were brought in to review policies and procedures in the office. That’s when the third case was discovered.
“We totally redesigned the way we balance out, and the way money is deposited,” Alberico said. “The auditor also made several recommendations that we have followed since then.”
One of those recommendations, not allowing her part-time bookkeeper to have her own cash drawer, has been more problematic, because that person doubles as a counter clerk.
The general county auditor later indicated that would not be a weakness in the system, as long as the proper compensating controls are in place, Alberico explained.
Alberico ran unopposed for reelection in 2014, amid the embezzlement scandals, but is facing a challenge from McLean this election.
“The recommendation is still, that is not a good procedure,” McLean said of allowing a bookkeeper to have a cash drawer. “I worked for RFTA, and we took in a lot of cash, as well. We did not allow our bookkeepers to have cash. I would definitely have supported what the auditor said. It’s a pretty simple fix.”
McLean also took Alberico to task over customer service in the office as it relates to dealing with auto dealerships on vehicle title and registration work.
“In talking to car dealerships … I was inundated with information about how there needs to be more training on how to register vehicles,” McLean said. “They said they were given a training video. We need to bring them in and have a forum, find out what the issues are, and teach them.”
One of the issues, Alberico said, is that there is a lot of turnover among title clerks at the various dealerships, and procedures as handed down by the state are always changing.
“We have offered that over the years, and we have trained many title clerks,” Alberico said. “And, I have spent a lot of time training my staff.”
Alberico touted her experience in 36 years with the county Clerk and Recorder’s Office, including 12 now as the chief Clerk and Recorder.
“People have concerns about election security, and we are on top of it,” she said. “Colorado is the safest place to vote in the country.”
McLean said she has had similar administrative experience in both the public and private sector, and would bring those practices to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
Regarding another contentious issue, same-sex marriage licenses, which are allowed by law in Colorado, both Alberico and McLean said it’s their duty to uphold the law. Alberico added that, if a particular counter clerk has a moral issue with issuing a license for religious reasons, another clerk can be called in to handle that request.
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“I feel I have the opportunity to go out and work for the people, and represent the people directly,” Wilhelm said.