DA wants special prosecutor to handle spending dust-up with Eagle County Sheriff
Bruce Brown wants the 9th District DA to take the case
EAGLE — The District Attorney is asking someone else to prosecute his petty offense case against Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek.
District Attorney Bruce Brown and van Beek are doing battle over money spent from a fund containing money seized by the Sheriff’s Office.
Brown says that because he might be a witness, he wants the case handled by Jefferson Chaney as a special prosecutor. Chaney is District Attorney for Colorado’s 9th Judicial District, which encompasses Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties. Brown is District Attorney for Colorado’s 5th Judicial District: Eagle, Lake, Summit and Clear Creek counties.
A grand jury indicted van Beek with a misdemeanor petty offense. Van Beek says he’ll fight it.
“Our office will be fighting it because it implies dishonesty, which as an elected official, is unacceptable, and against my values,” van Beek said in a statement.
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Both van Beek, Eagle County’s only elected Republican, and Brown, a Democrat, declined to comment on whether the allegations could be politically motivated.
Van Beek and Brown are two of the three committee members who oversee that reserve fund. Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu is the third.
At the end of 2018, the forfeiture fund contained $81,239.51, according to Eagle County’s financials. In a Dec. 14, 2018, email to van Beek and Treu, Brown suggested that the money be transferred to bank accounts controlled by the District Attorney’s Office.
Van Beek will make his first court appearance at 9 a.m. Aug. 30.
Brown convinced a grand jury that van Beek might be improperly spending money from that reserve fund. Brown insisted that he should have been part of any spending decisions.
Van Beek says the allegations stem from a “misinterpretation by the District Attorney about the review process of confiscated monies, and specifically when a committee needs to be convened for additional approval.”
The indictment claims that forfeited local money in that fund was co-mingled with forfeited state funds.
Not possible, said Treu, who says the fund hasn’t contained any forfeited state money since 2012.
The allegations include 14 previously approved expenditures from the reserve fund, made in 2019, including donations to local high school booster clubs, regional little league baseball leagues, and a new freezer for the jail.
Van Beek argues that because that reserve fund contains no state confiscated money, the three-member board does not need to approve money spent from it.
The approved expenditures also included paying a writer to pen columns for the Vail Daily. Those columns in the Daily appeared under van Beek’s byline and with his photo. However, they are the work of Jacqueline Cartier, who also previously wrote columns for the Vail Daily under her own byline and ran for a seat as a Republican on the Eagle County Board of Commissioners in 2018 against Democrat incumbent Jeanne McQueeney.