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Thompson's resignation: A matter of trustee 

Foreclosure official's departure leaves questions that no one's answering

When things go smoothly, the El Paso County public trustee's role in handling property foreclosures is hidden, even invisible. Since she abruptly quit the job in mid-December, so, too, has been Patricia Thompson, who was appointed to the position in March by Gov. Bill Ritter.

Neither Thompson nor anyone in Ritter's office has explained her departure, leaving room for speculation ranging from job dissatisfaction to financial bungling. Thompson did not return calls from the Independent despite numerous messages left on her cell phone and at the real estate office where she is a broker.

It has not been business as usual in the trustee's office since Thompson left. A group of real estate investors count as regulars at the trustee's weekly foreclosure auctions, and several have expressed dismay at new policies adopted by Carol Snyder, who has been appointed to fill Thompson's spot until a permanent trustee is picked.

Snyder, who is heading the El Paso office while still serving as trustee in Adams County, is requiring, among the other things, that investors bring certified checks to cover bids they make at foreclosure auctions, a change from what used to be casual gatherings.

Snyder says the changes are part of her effort to run the office as efficiently as possible, and she says she cannot speculate about the reason for her predecessor's departure. She offers only a few words about one foreclosure that blossomed into a mess the week before Thompson resigned, deferring other questions to an attorney representing the office.

"That one was a problem," Snyder says.

In December 2006, Jeanette Dobbs bought a home on Drakestone Drive in northeastern Colorado Springs for $210,000. She defaulted on her payments soon afterward, explains attorney Paul Murphy. Her lender filed to foreclose on the home in June, and an investor bid $155,000 for it at auction in September.

That's when things got complicated. Until Jan. 1, 2008, Colorado law allowed a homeowner whose home had been auctioned a 75-day period to "redeem" it, by coming up with auction price plus legal costs, usually paid with a certified check.

Dobbs had until Nov. 19 to save her home by plunking down a check for nearly $164,000. Apparently she and her daughter tried to do just that, but Nov. 19 happened to be the day foreclosure folks in the trustee's office were at a training session to learn the new state laws, which eliminate the redemption period in favor of a longer span before the auction, among other changes.

So Dobbs and her daughter left, Murphy says. Apparently, they were allowed to redeem the property the next day, using an uncertified check.

These irregularities might have gone unnoticed, but Murphy says word reached the trustee's office Dec. 4 that the account from which the check drew had been closed soon after it was written. He filed a lawsuit the next day to freeze the property and to keep it from being resold.

In time, he says, the property will be freed, and the investor who bid on it at auction will be allowed to buy it.

Murphy says he and the district attorney's office are investigating what happened, including the reason an improper check was accepted a day late.

"That check should not have been taken," he says.

Murphy says he has not encountered a case like the Drakestone foreclosure in decades handling some legal matters for the trustee's office. Since the home was frozen before it could be resold, he says, it will not end up costing the county anything, apart from legal fees.

He does not say whether all this has anything to do with Thompson's departure.

"You'll have to ask Patricia," he says.

lane@csindy.com

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