Homeland Security Office created for Colo. | VailDaily.com

Homeland Security Office created for Colo.

Colleen Slevin
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” Gov. Bill Ritter created a new Office of Homeland Security on Monday, saying it would reduce “fragmentation” in Colorado’s efforts to prepare and respond to potential terrorist threats and natural disasters.

Ritter appointed retired Colorado National guard Maj. Mason Whitney to lead the office of 14 people, who will be paid a total of about $1 million a year using money from the state’s federal homeland security grants. Whitney will report directly to Ritter and serve in his cabinet.

Twelve of the 14 people, including Whitney, are already working for the state in different departments and will be brought under Whitney’s direction. Ritter hired Whitney and former state auditor Joanne Hill last summer to examine Colorado’s homeland security operations and make recommendations to improve them following several critical audits. Three more employees have been hired since last year to apply for federal grants

Ritter said the new office will give “greater focus, greater coordination and greater oversight” and stressed that he wasn’t creating a new bureaucracy.

In December, a federal audit found that Colorado officials failed to tightly monitor how they spent more than $156 million in grants from 2003 to 2006 and found that $7.8 million were misspent. It also found that local security officials failed to meet on a routine basis, which Ritter said has now been corrected.

Whitney said that Hall’s review of the book showed that all but about $152,000 of the $7.8 million in spending was justified. Hill said the money was spent on appropriate things, though the transfer of a key piece of equipment for the state’s radio network wasn’t officially done.

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