Elections, Exclusives, Featured, Sherrie Peif, Weld County

More improprieties brought to light against Weld County Commissioner under threat of recall

FORT LUPTON — Two former board members from the South Platte Valley Historical Society (SPVHS), say they left the board earlier in 2018 after years of the board president’s unethical behavior, hostility and failure to uphold her fiduciary duties.

Rosalie Everson, the former treasurer, and Jim Barrington, the former vice president, both left in April after they said they’d had enough of President Barbara Kirkmeyer’s nepotism, abuse of volunteers and violation of the board’s conflict of interest policies, which Kirkmeyer signed in 2013 according to documents obtained by Complete Colorado.

Barbara Kirkmeyer

The SPVHS is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit. Its purpose, according to its website, is for the preservation and maintenance of sites, structures and objects of historical significance in the South Platte Valley area. It represents Lancaster Lupton’s original fort and settlement in the area.

They said Kirkmeyer has been the president of the board for as long as they can remember. She always had the final word when anyone disagreed with her. The only way they could break free from the problems was to quit.

Everson, who campaigned for Kirkmeyer and was a strong supporter of Kirkmeyer in her role as a Weld County Commissioner, said she never believed the things people said about Kirkmeyer until she started working with her. She said even then, she never intended on coming forward until Kirkmeyer found herself in the middle of a recall attempt and began labeling those behind the recall as pawns and liars.

Additionally, she said an editorial by a local newspaper calling the recall effort “petty politics” and urging people not to sign the petition, was her final straw.

“I just said enough was enough,” Everson said.

Everson, who had been the treasurer of the nonprofit  since 2014, said she kept a copy of the records for her own protection, because toward the end she didn’t trust Kirkmeyer, adding before she could turn over the records to the new treasurer, Kirkmeyer preempted the exchange and took the flash drive home with her.

“As far as I know, the new treasurer never even got those records,” Everson said.

Kirkmeyer did not return a request from Complete Colorado for a response.

“Barbara creates a lot of stress,” Everson said. “She had a habit of going after people at meetings.”

Most egregious for Everson and Barrington, they said, was Kirkmeyer’s skimming off the top of donations meant for the SPVHS.

“She’d been a very valuable person for raising funding, but then that turned sour,” Barrington said.

During the summers of 2015 and 2016, SPVHS attempted to host a craft fair called Market at the Fort. The Fort is a replica of the original trading fort built by Lancaster Lupton in the 1830s. It is the SPVHS’s anchor project.

Kirkmeyer, along with one of her daughters, solicited donations from “sponsors” for the event. They kept 20 percent of the donations for themselves as commission. Although both women exceeded the $600 yearly threshold, no 1099s (a tax form required by the IRS) were ever given to the two women, Everson said.

Everson said Kirkmeyer told her the threshold was much higher before it had to be reported to the IRS.  Additionally, neither of the women registered with the Secretary of State’s office as solicitors, which is required under certain circumstances. Although it is unclear whether the woman met the circumstances that would require registering, in Everson and Barrington’s minds, Kirkmeyer was still violating the board’s conflict of interest policies.

Those policies state it part: “A conflicting interest may be defined as an interest, direct or indirect, with any persons or firms …   through: receiving remuneration for services with respect to individual transactions involving SPVHS.”

Kirkmeyer accepted multiple donations from several individuals and corporations, most notably Anadarko Petroleum, which they said created an even larger appearance of impropriety in her role as a Weld County Board of Commissioner, as Anadarko comes before the BOCC on a regular basis in land use issues.

After the first year of Market in the Fort, Everson said, the board refused to give Kirkmeyer a commission, so instead she continued to solicit the donations but diverted all commissions to her daughter.

Kirkmeyer and her daughter also received several thousands in reimbursements for such things as “swag,” “Facebook,” and “miscellaneous,” among others, but did not turn in receipts.

The SPVHS discontinued the Market at The Fort after the second year because it proved unsuccessful, with most of the profits being reimbursed back to Kirkmeyer and her daughter. In fact, in 2015, the net profit was $2.10 and in 2016 it was $1,957.

“They would have been better off if they would have just let Anadarko donate the $10,000,” Everson said.

Everson said Kirkmeyer also negotiated with Anadarko concerning infrastructure between the SPVHS and an adjacent landowner and solicited tens of thousands in donations from the company for other uses by the SPVHS.

This is not the first time Kirkmeyer has been in the middle of unethical behavior concerning her fiduciary duties as a commissioner. In 2008, then Weld District Attorney Ken Buck said Kirkmeyer’s roll in helping some communities with their grant writing was against state law, but there was no penalty to pursue.

In that case, according to the Greeley Tribune: “Kirkmeyer entered into a number of contracts with cities and towns for grant-writing services, as soon as four months after leaving (her role as executive director of the state Department of Local Affairs). In all, she earned $35,500 for her services with the three towns.”

The situation with PVHS is similar in that Kirkmeyer’s solicitations were from companies known to her because of her role as a commissioner.

Kirkmeyer has never disclosed she or any member of her family has received money from Anadarko in any capacity during her terms as a commissioner, which is required under state law. She also has never recused herself from any votes pertaining to Anadarko.

Everson and Barrington said the troubles with Kirkmeyer started several years ago over proposed construction projects.

“There was a bit of a power struggle going on,” Everson said, “because although Barbara wanted to have a lot of the glory, she wanted not so much to be doing a lot of the hard work.”

Barrington agreed, saying she’s very rarely around except for board meetings.

He said if Kirkmeyer didn’t agree with a suggestion from someone else, she would either go off on a tangent or become curt with the person presenting the idea.

She had a “disrespect for volunteers,” Barrington said. “She was basically trying to run the show on her own. What really tripped it for me was when (one particular) volunteer made a proposal and she just came unglued on him.”

Barrington cited several cases where Kirkmeyer belittled volunteers in front of the board.

“I challenged her at the next board meeting,” Barrington said. “As a volunteer, I just don’t need to put up with the negativity. I just don’t want to put up with that kind of leadership.”

Aside from the hostility she created as the board president, the two said the nepotism in which she indulged was especially troubling.

“At one point we might as well have named it the South Platte Valley Historical Society Employment Agency for all her family members she ran through,” Everson said.

According to Everson, who backed up her accusations to Complete Colorado with copies of check registers and other financial documents, Kirkmeyer created an independent contractor job for the same daughter who collected the commissions on Market at the Fort, as well as a job for that daughter’s husband. The husband was hired to do general maintenance, while the daughter was hired as wedding coordinator.

Neither job lasted long, but it was the daughter’s job that was the most unethical the pair said.

Because the board would not approve the $500 per month stipend Kirkmeyer wanted to pay her daughter, Kirkmeyer instead, donated $500 a month to the SPVHS to cover the cost. The donation was then tax deductible. Although legal, the pair believe it is unethical because the donation was simply a pass-through for the daughter’s salary, and had she bypassed the SPVHS and just given her daughter the money, it would not be deductible.

It is a scenario the average citizen can’t pull off, but Kirkmeyer used her authority to be eligible for a tax break that in essence was simply a parent giving her child money, Barrington said.

“When people get so situated in their position and have positions of authority throughout the county like she does, I think she forgets that she and we are all volunteers on an equal basis,” Barrington said. “She comes in with the attitude she is there to run the show like she would run the county.”

Both Barrington and Everson said the decision to come forward about the misdealings at the SPVHS was not easy, but with Kirkmeyer currently the target of a recall they believed her constituents needed to know there is truth behind the accusations being made by We Care For Weld County, the group spearheading the effort.

Sara Mondragon, who started the recall effort, said she was not surprised by the revelations. Mondragon said she has also met with former members of the SPVHS and is saddened that Kirkmeyer’s actions has caused so many good people to leave, she said.

“It is amazing how Barb has been able to manipulate her status and standing through the SPVHS,” Mondragon said. “At one point there were more than 400 members. Now they are down to less than 200 because of her. I hear these stories every day. It’s also sad how many people I talk to that want to sign the petition but are afraid of the retaliation that might happen if they do. It’s all the more reason she needs recalled.”

 

 

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