It won't be a bestseller. In fact, the best way to get one isn't to visit a bookstore, but rather to know Bob Balink.
Leaving the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office after eight years, Balink recently spent $13,600 in taxpayer money to issue a colorful "8 Years of Progress" publication. Balink, who was term-limited but now is starting a gig as county treasurer, says the report is justified "to help the public learn that many areas of county governments are run in a business-like manner."
"The fiscal responsibility, leadership and innovation exhibited by the Clerk & Recorder's office staff should be a model for others to follow, and must be shared with those we serve," he writes in an e-mail response to questions. "We felt to not communicate that (at least once in eight years) would be a mistake."
The 20-page magazine-style publication contains data from his years as clerk, including voting trends, vehicle registrations, customer wait time and the like. It also contains photos of employees, biographical information about key staffers and lists of accomplishments, such as setting up an auto dealers' desk to improve service in 2008.
In the opening letter, Balink notes that while he was clerk and recorder, the county saw an 18 percent population increase, "yet our total office operating budget is now 24% less than it was four years ago."
We also learn from Balink's bio that he has served as a "professional wedding planner, although he claims to have retired from that activity in May 2007, after one successful event" and was "an active college and international tournament tennis player and later served as an international professional tennis tournament referee and umpire." Balink also mentions his affiliation with St. George's Anglican Church, which broke from Grace Episcopal in 2007 and squatted there until a judge ordered the group to relinquish the property.
Balink, a Republican, spent $1,148 on postage for the brochure, $4,475 on photography and $7,996 on layout and printing, or roughly $7 per issue. (He didn't answer a question about how much staff time was involved.) He ordered 2,000 copies, and to a list of 710 people, mailed an undisclosed number.
Provided to the Independent by new Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams, the list includes state legislators, local and state elected officials, Memorial Health System trustees, Pikes Peak Association of Realtors officials, Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce officials, Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs members, about 60 nonprofits, select businesses and car dealers.
Amy Lathen, chair of the county commissioners, says, "This is not an expense that I would approve for our offices, but again, I do not control these types of decisions for county-wide elected officials."
Williams says some copies are available at his office, but he hasn't decided how to distribute them.
While eight-year retrospectives are rare, other publications do emanate from county agencies. Sheriff Terry Maketa has issued glossy annual reports since at least 2005, ranging from 32 to 40 pages. The 1,000 copies printed annually cost taxpayers $3,600 in 2008 and $3,700 in 2009, sheriff's spokeswoman Lt. Lari Sevene says in an e-mail.
His predecessor, John Anderson, paid $26,000 for four years of annual reports, according to news reports.
Not all elected officials share their accomplishments in a formal way. Former Treasurer Sandra Damron, who left office Dec. 31 after eight years, says, "First of all, the treasurer's office doesn't have the budget that the Clerk and Recorder's Office has." Another reason she didn't herald her office's work: "It's just not my personality."