Tension is building in Paonia over the alleged misuse of public funds by the former town finance officer, Kristin Chesnik. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is leading the investigation after the Town of Paonia was informed by auditor Pete Blair of problems discovered during the 2010 audit.
From there the town turned to the district attorney who brought in CBI. No charges have been filed against anyone at this time. Nor have details of the alleged wrongdoing been released by authorities because the investigation is still ongoing.
Despite those facts, at the Feb. 28 Paonia Town Council meeting during the personnel committee report, chairman and trustee David Weber went on the offensive, declaring his judgment that "Kristin Chesnik embezzled the town for a substantial amount of money, and is facing possible jail time."
Stating he wanted to refute rumors, Weber said the investigation was done by Pete Blair, who is the town's accountant and auditor as well as a forensic accountant.
Actually, Blair, as town auditor, cannot by law be the town's accountant. Weber was incorrect on that point.
Weber continued that Blair "looked at anyone who could have touched the town money, and he has cleared everybody but Kristin. So all the rumors about conspiracies within the town — put those to rest. There is no such thing."
Weber then discussed what could be done in the future to prevent a crime from happening.
According to Weber, the finance officer was left alone without proper checks and balances. The finance officer reported to Mayor Neal Schwieterman and the finance committee with Lucien Pevec and Brian Ayers. Weber accused the three of not doing their jobs of checking the finance officer's work. He charged that "not a single credit card statement was under review by the finance committee." Weber believes those on the finance committee have to have business experience.
Weber said the former finance officer did not do necessary IRS filings, resulting in penalties of $21,500. He blamed the mayor for not overseeing town staff.
Weber said recommendations by the auditor as far back as 2008 were not implemented. Concerns were raised in 2009, then the 2010 audit led to the current investigation.
Weber suggested that duties for the finance committee be written down, so trustees will know what to do.
Lucien Pevec agreed there are no list of procedures for any committee. He said the town adopted Blair's recommendations as policy. Pevec and Ayers said the former finance officer would not supply information when it was requested.
Mayor Schwieterman said Blair has a set of protocols for the town to implement.
Bill Brunner, who was in the council chamber, said he found the finance committee's explanations shocking. He stated it is the primary function of the trustees to ensure the financial health of the town. Since the mayor signs checks, he and the mayor pro tem must know that the finances that go with that check are in order.
Brunner then said an item missing from the council's agenda was apologies and resignations. "I think you gentlemen have utterly abandoned your posts. You have failed the town," Brunner said.
He said every charge to a town debit or credit card should be listed on the published disbursements.
During his personnel report, Weber noted the town has been looking for a new bookkeeper to replace the former finance officer. The town received 13 applications for a bookkeeper. Four were selected for interviews, resulting in a final two for consideration. The personnel committee of David Weber, Blake Kinser and town clerk Barbara Peterson selected one for the bookkeeper position and the second as a back up. "The thing I was impressed with was the quality of people who actually applied for that job," Weber said. "They were top notch financial people this town hasn't had in awhile."blog comments powered by Disqus