The Paonia Town Council moved ahead with some unfinished business regarding the former finance officer, Kristin Chesnik. She is currently serving her sentence for theft of $393,000 from the Town of Paonia.
This was the amount the Colorado Bureau of Investigation determined would be easiest to prove in court.
That figure was not the total amount the town's auditor found missing though. The total amount is over $600,000, the town alleges. The civil suit would cover the difference between that amount and the $393,000 in the current court restitution order. Added to that are initial accounting and legal fees of $80,000. Any legal and accounting costs for the civil suit would also be included.
Jim Briscoe, town attorney, said that in preparing for the civil suit there will be a discovery of Chesnik's assets which would attempt to find out if she has any of the stolen funds still in her possession or other assets that would go toward repaying her debt to the Town of Paonia.
A civil judgment could provide $200,000 to $300,000 in additional funds from Chesnik. The town would pursue payment against Chesnik's assets and wages. This would be a renewable 20-year judgment. "In essence, it would become a lifetime debt," Briscoe said. "I don't know what her ability is or could be to pay more than the $393,000 that has already been ordered."
Briscoe estimates it could cost about $5,000 to prove the claim. Since Chesnik is in prison, Briscoe expects it will cause the court case to take longer to complete.
Briscoe will not be taking on this case because of plans to retire before the civil suit is wrapped up.
Trustee Eric Goold said he believes pursuing the civil suit would throw good money after bad. He doesn't want future councils saddled with the lawsuit. "I think we need to move on," Goold said.
Trustee Brian Ayers said he was in favor of getting as much money as possible.
Trustee Ross King was also in favor of the civil suit as a responsible action.
Doug and Linda Long wrote a letter to the town. It stated that the Town of Paonia should go after the civil suit. They noted the stolen money was the property of the people, not the town.
Trustee Sarah Sauter asked if there could be a cap on the amount of legal fees for the civil suit. Briscoe responded it could be done but if the town initiates a lawsuit it should go the distance.
The council voted to approve the motion to pursue the civil suit. Eric Goold was opposed.
Briscoe will contact several litigation attorneys for the town to choose from. Briscoe plans to retire at the end of this year.blog comments powered by Disqus