DA Ken Buck, running for U.S. Senate, and DA Mark Hurlbert, running for Colo. State Senate, have taken opposite approaches on budget transparency: Buck has been responsive and transparent, while Hurlbert has been opaque and obstructive. The two DAs are the only district attorneys running for state or federal offices.
Ken Buck is the Weld County District Attorney, and is running against former Lt. Governor Jane Norton for the Republican Senate nomination in a neck and neck race. Mark Hurlbert is DA for Eagle, Summit, Clear Creek and Lake Counties, and is challenging Evergreen businessman, Tim Leonard, for the Republican spot in state Senate District 16.
I already reported in detail on Hurlbert’s budget increases, lack of transparency, and obstructionism. Since then, I followed up with Summit County’s three Democrat commissioners to obtain their rationales for approving Hurlbert’s budget increases. Their excuses were specious at best. The county keeps no copy of the budgets and gives the “only copy” back to Hurlbert as soon as they approve his budget. So I asked if they could rectify this record-maintenance problem and get the budgets from Hurlbert, retain them in the county files, and provide them to me. All three of the liberal Democrats refused, stating they didn’t want to be the “middle man” in rectifying what was clearly inappropriate record keeping to begin with. During my course of dealing with Hurlbert’s Democrat enablers, one of them, Bob French, came out and officially endorsed Hurlbert over a fellow liberal Democrat, as Ex-Pat Ex-Lawyer reported exclusively yesterday.
Don Johnson at the People’s Press Collective, and on his own blog, businessword.com, has also been raising questions about transparency and seeking explanations for any budget increases for both of these DAs running for important offices. I think Hurlbert has been adequately covered, and essentially there are no good explanations for his budget increases. Let’s look at how Ken Buck and Weld county have handled budget requests from the public.
Ken Buck’s complete budgets are here in convenient PDF format. Here’s the 2007 budget, the 2008 budget, the 2009 budget, and the 2010 budget. I received them the morning following my request via email.
Compare the ordeal with Hurlbert and Summit County, with this treatment from Buck’s office and Weld County. I phoned Ken Buck’s office administrator, Terasina White, late in the afternoon on March 30. First thing in the morning, Terasina emailed me back and copied the email to Weld County Controller, Barb Connolly, who works under Weld Budget Director, Don Warden.
I then emailed Barb my request. She responded by providing me with an embedded link to the Weld budget page, and asked if that level of detail shown for 2010 was what I wanted, and if so, she’d get me the rest of those very detailed budgets for 2007-2009. Because Weld provides such detailed information on its website, the budget page takes a long time to load, and readers would then have to go through many pages before finding the DA budget.
So I asked Barb if she would kindly copy the pages from the website, and scan and email me those as well because my scanner wasn’t working. She agreed, and sent all the budgets the following morning – and even converted her original Excel documents to PDF so we could embed them for ease of the public.
I have not yet analyzed any of the budgets in detail, but it seems clear that Buck reduced his budget from 2009 to 2010. Also, the budgets provide the public with varying levels of detail depending on what a citizen is seeking. The budgets include helpful bar graphs that show changes over a seven-year period, or you can really get in the weeds and see lots of detail on different programs, such as juvenile crime and victim’s assistance.
A complete analysis will require looking at data of crime rates in Weld county, case filing numbers, population growth and other information. It’s clear, though, even from supporters of Jane Norton, that if crime went down it did not go down the way it has in the mountain resort towns where DA Hurlbert prosecutes. Buck supporters have made arguments that some of Weld’s reduced crime is due to effective use of prosecution resources by Buck. It will take a lot more analysis to provide the answers, but getting these budgets out to the public promptly and with no hassle is a great start.