CALL7 Investigation: State Has Millions In Uncashed Checks

Backlog So Deep Some Checks Expire

A CALL7 Investigation has uncovered nearly $5 million worth of checks are sitting in envelopes in a state office, unopened and uncashed.

The checks, for $90 each, come from people who want to be on the state’s medical marijuana registry.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment runs the registry and workers there told CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski that they are overwhelmed with applicants.

"I would say we have in the range of 40,000 to 50,000," said Ronald Hyman, the director of the medical marijuana registry.

"Unopened envelopes?" asked Kovaleski.

"Correct," said Hyman. "With our current staff of three permanent and 10 temporaries we are processing approximately 300 or so applications a day."

However, the stack of medical marijuana applications grows by about 1,000 a day.

"The state's losing money when those envelopes are sitting unopened and that money is not in the bank," said Kovaleski.

"Correct," said Hyman. "It's a lot of money."

The $5 million could help with the state’s current budget crisis or could have helped alleviate painful cuts in education or mental health programs.

Instead, the money is sitting in envelopes doing nothing.

"Who is to blame for this? Why the backlog?" Kovaleski asked Hyman.

"With government structures the way they are set up... the ability to hire additional personnel requires actions of the legislature," Hyman said.

State Sen. Al White disagreed.

"I don't think that's a good excuse, pointing to the legislature," said White. "[The health department] couldn't figure out how to redirect somebody for a short period of time to get these monies in the bank? That's the problem I have right now."

As a member of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, White said leaving the money in envelopes is inexcusable.

"Is there a plausible reason to have $5 million in checks that have gone uncashed?” asked Kovaleski.

"None that I can think of," said White. "Those are dollars we sorely could have used and will need next year."

According to the state treasurer’s office, the lost interest on that $5 million is costing the state about $120,000 a year.

"Look at the jobs that $120,000 in lost interest or $5 million in unbanked funds would provide for in state government," said White. "It's just gross mismanagement of cash funds and once again, I'm astounded that the department doesn't put a higher priority on this. When money comes in the door, we need to track it, we need to deposit it and we need to start collecting interesting on it. Any American household would do that."

On top of the lost interest and uncashed checks at the health department, Hyman estimates there are also 85 to 100 checks a month that expire before the envelopes are even opened.

That’s a loss of about $8,000 a month.

"Should the department of health be embarrassed by this record?" asked Kovaleski.

"Oh, absolutely. I think this is a terrible black eye for them," said White.

What do you think about this backlog? What is the solution? Watch 7NEWS at 10 p.m. for more reaction to this story.