ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — Adams County commissioners have filed a lawsuit against their own county treasurer, Lisa Culpepper, alleging Culpepper hasn’t balanced the county’s checkbook since March 16, 2020.
As a result, ‘tens of millions of dollars’ remain unreconciled and, essentially, unaccounted for in the last 227 days and counting.
The Board of Commissioners in Adams County said it’s simply out of options.
“What we need to see are the books and so do the auditors,” said deputy county manager Jim Siedlecki, speaking on behalf of the commissioners. “The board [has] concerns about our year-end books, our bond rating and, honestly, just the accounting of the county’s finances.”
In the lawsuit, commissioners also allege Culpepper’s office made duplicate payments on three separate occasions totaling $549,437. The complaint indicates the county only found out about the overpayments from the entities that were overpaid.
The suit also alleges Culpepper’s office received $90 million in CARES Act funds in April 2020, but didn’t record the funding until Nov. 2020, 209 days after receipt.
The county told Denver7 they don’t know if money is being embezzled or if Culpepper is just incompetent because she won’t allow them to review the books, blocking two recent audits of her office.
“We don’t know what we don’t know because there has been no compliance with the audit process,” Siedlecki said. “We don’t know if every penny is accounted for or if there is something we need to look further into.”
After staff at her office said Culpepper was unavailable, she returned Denver7’s phone calls Friday afternoon.
"They know for a fact that's not the case," Culpepper said of questions about embezzlement and incompetence. "I've been working 12-16 hour days recently. Anyone can check the logs to verify that."
Culpepper said she was not prepared to go into details, but stands by her dedication and commitment to the honesty and integrity required of public office.
"My colleagues [the commissioners] and I have a disagreement about constitutional checks and balances," Culpepper said. "Sometimes a third party is necessary to resolve things."
Culpepper said the county has not committed the resources necessary to handle the workload in the treasurer's office. She says she is providing monthly reports to the commissioners.
"And I have a great crew now that took a lot of time to get into place. We have good people with the right skill sets, and we continue to improve and look forward to getting this resolved," Culpepper said.
County commissioners don’t have the authority to fire Culpepper because she’s an elected official, even though her office is essentially the bank for the county.
“This is an independently elected office that our board of county commissioners doesn’t have any real oversight or authority over,” Siedlecki said.
Commissioners also have concerns about staffing in the treasurer’s office because of high turnover, according to claims in the lawsuit.
“We have a variety of different complaints,” Siedlecki said. “And that’s why we’re asking the court to step in.”
If a judge orders Culpepper to turn over the records and she doesn’t, she could be charged criminally.