The Colorado Bureau of Investigations launched an investigation into Elbert County’s payroll records on the heels of a nine-page request from county resident Don Pippin.
At the heart of the investigation is whether or not the county improperly paid Sheriff Shayne Heap unused benefits he accrued during his eight years as a county employee. Heap was a sheriff’s office employee before he was made sheriff in the November 2010 election.
The payout to Heap amounted to more than $12,000 in unused vacation time, in a disbursement that was carried over to 2011 at the direction of former Sheriff Bill Frangis, according to county payroll records.
Pippin alleges that the accrued amount is a violation of a county policy that was adopted in 2010, before the payment to Heap was approved by county commissioners. The investigation was turned over to the CBI after the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office reviewed Pippin’s request, which includes a comprehensive list of complaints about the county’s personnel and finance practices.
The 18th Judicial District covers Elbert, Douglas, Arapahoe and Lincoln counties, relying on each of the four counties for part of its annual financing.
The CBI investigation will be limited in scope as to whether or not Elbert County violated any state law, not whether or not it violated an internal county policy, said Steve Johnson, CBI assistant director.
CBI investigators met with county commissioners on April 12 and said the county was cooperating fully with investigators, Johnson said.
“We’re still poring over the information that has been provided to us,” Johnson said. “We are focusing on what matters of criminal law may exist within (Pippin’s) allegations.”
The allegations in Pippin’s request range from Heap’s benefits payment, to an itemized look at the county’s payroll, to whether or not the county violated state law in its annual budget practices.
Pippin has since January submitted numerous open records requests to Elbert County, said Kurt Schlegel, District 2 commissioner.
“The number of hours we’ve spent on his (open records requests) is in the hundreds right now,” Schlegel said. “I believe this is a trumped-up series of accusations by (Pippin). There are people who think there has been sleight-of-hand in Elbert County. We want a full accounting of the facts and we’ll get that to the public immediately.”