County treasurer candidates speak out

As part of The SUN’s ongoing election coverage, we provide the following story on the race for the Archuleta County Treasurer’s seat.

Both candidates, Betty Diller and Kelly Evans, were asked to provide a biographical statement and to answer a series of four questions. The first question was specific to the particular candidate’s experience or campaign, while the remaining three questions were asked of both candidates.

The questions appear below in bold text.

Betty Diller

Biographical statement.

“A native Oklahoman, I have also lived in Kansas and Tennessee. I moved to Colorado twenty-two years ago and have lived in Pagosa Springs for fourteen years.

“Family is extremely important to me. Dorman and I raised our daughters to value and find strength in each other. Though they are separated from us, we cherish our time with them.

“I enjoy opening my home to others. I have been privileged to host MLS soccer coaches from England, Wales, and Scotland, a college student from South Africa, a Rotary Exchange Student from Sardinia, and band students from Mexico.

“Cooking is another activity that I love. I have prepared meals for small dinner parties to two hundred kids and staff at church camp. One of the highlights for my daughters was when they invited their friends over for a candlelight dinner. It is a wonderful way to get teenagers to slow down long enough to share a meal and spend time sharing their lives with adults and each other.

“Most of all, I love being with people. Listening to their experiences of life fascinates me. In sharing our stories, I hope we make each other better.”

Some in the community have questioned wether you are an appropriate pick for treasurer considering the fact you filed bankruptcy in 2002. Please explain the circumstances around the bankruptcy, and why you believe it will not compromise your ability to serve as one of the county’s key financial managers.

“My bankruptcy was the result of an event, not long term financial practices,” Diller said.

The event in question, Diller explained, was Sept. 11, 2001, and the attacks on the World Trade Center. According to Diller, she held a grand-opening open house for her business, Betty Financial Dynamics, Sept. 5, 2001, and six days later, the trade center was attacked.

“My bankruptcy came about because of a situation I had no control over. The events of September 11 were too much for a new office. We were dependant on new clients transferring their assets to our office. With the instability of the market, people were not willing to change their advisors.”

Diller said although the events of Sept. 11 crippled the business before it had a chance to get off the ground, she said she had operated successful businesses before, including a local H&R Block franchise.

“I had been able to sell H&R Block because it was successful.”

While questions regarding the bankruptcy have surrounded her candidacy, some have also questioned whether Diller obtained the necessary licenses to manage a financial advisory firm and sell securities.

Diller said in order to own and operate Betty Financial Dynamics, she obtained and maintained all the licenses necessary to sell mutual funds, including the Series 6, Series 63 and Series 65 licenses. In addition, she said she was a registered advisor agent and had two employees who served as assistants, but were “not involved in the actual sales of securities.”

“I was conducting my business in a legal manner. I was licensed to do what I was doing. I was licensed in 1997. I had not done very much with my securities business in that time because my Block franchise had grown so much. After I sold my Block franchise, I brought a handful of clients over.”

Diller said she continues to pay back her bankruptcy related debts despite the fact the she has no more legal obligation to do so.

What discretionary powers, if any, does the treasurer have?

“The treasurer can choose to operate with pool accounting or a separate account for every fund. They can seek out and make recommendations regarding investment of reserves. That investment is still subject to approval from the commissioners. They (the treasurer) can choose what level of transparency they want to give to the public.

“There is really a lot of leeway in how the treasurer can conduct the office. There are state statutes with specific requirements, but not a lot of specificity as to how to go about fulfilling them.”

For example, Diller said, “The treasurer is to prudently invest reserve funds, but the treasurer has the latitude to seek out appropriate investments. The treasurer is required to report semi-annually to the BoCC (board of county commissioners), but the format and detail of the reports is something the treasurer can develop to be more explicit and suitable for county government as well as the taxpayers.”

What changes, if any, would you make to the office?

“First of all, I would tremendously increase the amount of transparency in the treasurer’s office. With the technology available today, there is no reason for not giving the public ready access to reports showing the financial transactions of our county government. When you have total transparency, you eliminate frustration. Frustration can lead to suspicion. I prefer to avoid all of that and just give people what they want to know.

“Second, I would vastly improve the nature of financial reports. I would give complete reports. The report given in July gave beginning and ending cash balances and reserves in Colorado Trust. I would add where cash funds are kept. I would add expenditures and give fund balances. I would also break out any receivables and notes payable, including loans made to zero out negative fund balances by the commissioners in June.”

Diller said the semi-annual report presented in June omitted such information and said, “Unless you can see the whole picture, then your financial decisions are a ‘best guess’ scenario, or a shot in the dark.

“With my business background, I’m used to looking at financial reports from a decision maker’s viewpoint and I know what information needs to be there.”

What distinction is there between the elected county treasurer and the hired finance director?

“The Archuleta County finance director works with day to day cash flow management and posting transactions to the budget that has been set for the year. The treasurer actually receives all the monies that come into the county and is responsible for allocating those to the funds in which they belong.

“The treasurer is responsible for following the law, as far as collecting fees that are due to that office, processing distraints, working with all departments to receive the funds they collect for their services. The county treasurer also conducts tax liens sales and is responsible for meeting all the requirements of those sales.”

Diller said the treasurer’s position is more than just glorified bookkeeping.

“There is wisdom required in execution of responsibilities and in working with the rest of the county team. The treasurer has to have the courage to uphold the law that provides a wall of protection around the taxpayers and to protect them from misuse and overspending. I think that is the most important responsibility of the treasurer, to realize why those laws are there, and that when she upholds the law, she has the full backing of the State of Colorado.”

Kelly Evans

Biographical statement.

Kelly Evans grew up vacationing in the Pagosa Springs area and as an adult never seriously considered making her life anyplace else. In 1986 she moved to Archuleta County after graduating from Kansas State University. She worked various jobs before becoming the Fairshare Director for Fairfield Pagosa in the early 1990s. There she became familiar with writing and managing large budgets and interpreting financial reports. In 1998 she went to work in the Archuleta County Treasurer’s Office collecting property taxes and working with the public. She became familiar with the operation of that office and became Deputy Treasurer in January 2007. For several years she has also been active with the Aspen Springs Metropolitan District, which builds and maintains the roads in that area.

After owning a small townhome in the Pagosa Lakes area for some years, Evans invested her equity and savings in building a small log house on three acres in Aspen Springs. She now lives happily in that home with Jerry, her husband of five years, and a variety of dogs, mules and horses. Together they enjoy camping, hiking, hunting and the occasional barbecue. In addition, Kelly annually looks forward to the challenge of growing a vegetable garden in the mountains.

In light of your past experience with the treasurer’s office along with your complicity with and support for Lois Baker, how do you justify your candidacy for this office?

“I supported her because she was absolutely in a horrible position. She came in when the county’s ship was already sunk. In retrospect, she probably should have shut the county down.

“I can justify my candidacy because I have been with the county for 10 years and I’ve seen everything in the world that’s been done wrong. I know how to put my foot down when I know what needs to be done.”

What discretionary powers, if any, does the treasurer have?

“Various powers, in regards to taxes and finance. Not so much with tax collection dates but in procedures. The biggest and most important power is determining how county money should be invested and disclosing how those county funds were invested.”

What changes, if any, would you make to the office?

“Lots of changes. Adding new software to the IT system, that I helped choose. I’d completely redo the mechanics of how we do our job.

“In addition, I also add many new smaller software packages — most at little or no cost­ — to help in the administration of various trustee functions and help us to accept and transmit documents electronically.”

What distinction is there between the elected county treasurer and the hired finance director?

“We’re accounts receivable, they’re accounts payable. We collect funds from various entities as well as collect funds from other county departments. Although we’re not accounts payable, we do chart where those funds would go.

“Also, we balance cash on a daily basis and a monthly basis. When interest statements come in, we balance the county’s cash at the end of each month. In fact, it’s the treasurer’s job to balance each of the county’s balances to the penny.”