Jefferson County's Margaret Chapman became one of five public trustees reappointed to their jobs as of Aug. 14 after Gov. John Hickenlooper asked all 10 to resign in the wake of a newspaper investigation questioning some of the appointed officials' spending practices.
While some of the trustees' spending practices were harshly criticized, Chapman was not singled out for any wrongdoing. She also received words of praise and an endorsement from the Jefferson County commissioners, who sent a message to the governor.
"I think it was good for the governor to have a fresh start. Starting over with a clean slate is fine. I told everybody my record speaks for itself," said Chapman, who just "soldiered on" through the job crisis and performed her daily duties.
The independent public-trustee office is empowered to oversee the state foreclosure process. In Colorado there are are 64 public trustees, 10 of whom are appointed by the governor, a practice that is nearly 100 years old. Most are elected officials and also serve as county treasurers.
As one of the governor-appointed trustees, Chapman offered her resignation as requested, but she continued to work with the understanding that she could reapply for her job.
After submitting a disclosure statement, sitting for an interview with members of Hickenlooper's staff and being re-sworn in on Aug. 15, Chapman is no longer in danger of being replaced.
Chapman, 63, a Democrat, was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2007 and reappointed by Hickenlooper in 2011. She has a business and political background, with a B.A. in journalism. She is paid $72,500 a year and supervises eight employees.
Unlike other offices, the Jefferson County public trustee office does not operate autonomously. It pays rent to Jefferson County and has a budget that is scrutinized by county officials. Its employees are treated like county employees as far as salary and benefits are concerned. The office is self-supporting and returns money annually to the general fund.
Everything could change in the next legislative session, when lawmakers are expected to discuss a number of alternate proposals for selecting public trustees. In the future, they could all be subject to an election.
Other than forcing Chapman to offer her resignation, the mass-resignation and rehiring process will have virtually no effect on the workings of the public-trustee office in Jefferson County.
However, a new policy on competitive bidding may take effect as a result of legislation in 2012. HB 1329 says each appointed public trustee is to be subject to the state procurement code for any purchase of $20,000 or more and for any multiple-year purchase agreement.
Since 2009 the Jeffco trustee office has assigned foreclosure notices to various newspapers based on ZIP code and not on the basis of competitive bidding.
Chapman also is seeking the county's legal opinion on whether she needs to submit bid requests for other services that are now provided by the county, such as office space, payroll administration and group benefits.
Contact Vicky Gits at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.