Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Oops. A $110,000 mistake

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 4:01 PM

Former Treasurer Balink: Caused a costly error for taxpayers. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Former Treasurer Balink: Caused a costly error for taxpayers.
Thanks to former El Paso County Treasurer Bob Balink, the taxpayers will pay $110,000 to settle a lawsuit involving his office.

The case was filed in April by Darin Zaruba and Z, Inc. doing business as Zinc Homes.

Besides Balink, he named as defendants numerous county officials and the Board of County Commissioners.

In a nutshell, Balink allowed property owners whose tax liens had been purchased by Zaruba to redeem them after the deadline imposed by statute.

Zaruba originally sought to be reimbursed for lost revenue from six mobile homes, but it turned out to be four, county officials say, with a total value of $94,870.

Here's what interesting: Balink didn't seem to understand the procedure. After getting the runaround about the tax liens he'd bought from the Treasurer's Office, Zaruba says in the lawsuit, he requested a meeting with Balink.

From the lawsuit: "During said meeting, Mr. Balink stated that he didn’t know what the exact process was, but that he would look into it and respond to Mr. Zaruba that day with an answer."

Also from the lawsuit:
On December 4, 2014, Mr. Zaruba met with Ms. Trivelli who informed him that she had met with the staff to review the statutes, admitting that the Treasurer’s office obviously had issues with the dates and timelines. Ms. Trivelli advised that the office would subsequently be changing their internal policy and would provide Mr. Zaruba a copy.
And to think Balink collected a salary from taxpayers of $87,300 a year for four years.

Treasurer Mark Lowderman, who succeeded Balink in that office in January, says he's fixed the problem permanently. "It's not going to happen again." He adds that Balink "kicked the can down the road" until Lowderman took office.

We've sent Balink and email seeking a comment. We'll update if and when we hear back.

Here's the complaint filed by Zaruba:

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