Treasurer candidates face off during forum
October 5, 2016
EDWARDS — The Eagle County Treasurer's Office is all about the Benjamins, and the two candidates running both say they can take care of those Benjamins and the people who pay them.
Incumbent Treasurer Mari Renzelman and challenger Teak Simonton squared off on Monday in their first candidate forum, sponsored by the Edwards Metro District and Colorado Mountain College.
Renzelman is an Eagle County native and has been with the treasurer's office for 16 years. She's worked for the county for 21 years. She was named treasurer when Karen Sheaffer retired in January.
Simonton is the current Eagle County Clerk and Recorder. She won her seat in 2002, and has been there ever since.
Eagle County is home to more than 80 taxing entities, and the county treasurer's office collects hundreds of millions of dollars a year on their behalf and then distributes it.
Both candidates said controls over that money are one of the most important aspects of the job.
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"We have procedures in place and we have separation of duties, and have been in place since I started in the office," Renzelman said.
They separate duties. No one has access to more than one thing, making it almost impossible to move money around and hide it.
"Everything we do is dual control. One person initiates it, another person checks it," Renzelman said.
An armored car comes around every day to take the money to the bank, Renzelman said.
The next morning, employees check the accounts to make sure the amount of money in there is the amount they deposited the night before, Renzelman said.
"We've never had any embezzlement in the 16 years I've been with the office," Renzelman said.
Simonton said some natural checks and balances are in place. For example, there are no checks that arrive that are not accounted for in other county departments.
"There's little opportunity for embezzlement, even though there is a lot of cash that flows through that office," Simonton said.
Simonton has been forthright about an embezzlement case from the clerk and recorder's office a few years ago. She caught a former employee stealing more than $80,000, and put the case together for prosecutors by spending countless hours scouring millions of dollars in receipts to find it. That employee eventually confessed and is serving a jail sentence while paying it back.
Two people now balance the cash drawers, everything is audited every week, and the people who wait on customers do not handle money, Simonton said.
Renzelman said she likes the direction the treasurer's office is going, and, "there's always room for improvement."
An upgraded computer system enables the office to offer much more information online and in real time for homeowners locally and around the world, Renzelman said.
"This has streamlined our procedures," she said.
Simonton says she brings leadership and communication skills that would help her reach out on issues such as the state's senior citizen property tax exemptions.
"Those are the kinds of things that can help seniors continue to live here," Simonton said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.