Jul 17, 2009 2:21 PM by James Jarman
Short work days, long lunches and personal business in public cars. A few current and former Pueblo County employees claim that's a typical day for 2 of the commissioners.
In Pueblo county the median household income is $39,000 a year, and taxpayers give each commissioner $87,000 annual salaries and a car.Our inside sources claim 2 of the 3 commissioners are getting that full time pay for part time work.
In an undercover investigation, we followed up on those complaints by following the commissioners.
During the 10 weekdays we picked at random, we followed Commissioner John Cordova and Commissioner Anthony Nunez for 5 days each, 10 hours a day.
We videotaped them using the taxpayer's car to go golfing, driving it to do work for a private business and even taking it on vacation with a friend. Those are just a few of the things we saw them do.
We followed them for 100 hours, 50 hours each. By our calculations, during that time Cordova spent 10 hours on county-related work. Nunez was closer to 17 hours. Both say we followed them on days when they had a lot of lag time. "Unfortunately it wasn't when we're really quite busy," Cordova said.
Both told us, legally, they only have to show up for 2 meetings a week. "We are required to hold 2 meetings a week and we do," said Nunez, "that's all that's required of the job."Both also say they put in many more hours, including weekends. Weekly, Nunez estimates he works 38 hours a week and sometimes more. Cordova puts his workload at 50 hours a week.
Their work calendars have many listings for the month of May and do show a few banquets and luncheons on weekends and at night. In a couple of cases, the calendars list events on the days we followed them, but the commissioners instead were doing private work. For Cordova it was spraying weeds and picking up trash at 2 rental properties he owns. Nunez was at The Favorite Tavern, which he co-owns, for the weekly beer delivery.
On another day, Cordova spent the morning playing a round of golf at a city owned golf course. At 11:40 am he capped it off with a couple of beers at the clubhouse.
Then at 12:45 pm he left in the county car and went to the private Eagle's Lodge. Cordova says he doesn't think he drank any alcohol at the lodge and also says "I don't think 1 or 2 beers has ever affected me."
At 1:34 pm he went home, where he stayed the rest of the workday.
After spending 2.5 hours in a commission work session on another day he went home.
Then at 11:28 am, a friend drove to his house and they took the taxpayers' car to the Colorado Springs airport. It was the start of their weekend vegas vacation.
Cordova says they took the county car because his "needs maintenance." He did not explain why they didn't use his friends, but did say "We'll use hers next week when we go to Monument." He also says he'll pay the County back for the personal use of the car.
On the days we followed Commissioner Nunez, even though the bar he co-owns is only open twice a week, he was there everyday.
He made sure the doors were open for the beer deliveries, we watched that happen 3 times.
He said his co-owner couldn't do it, because the co-owner has to run the liquor store they both own.
He also went to the gym a couple times, and was usually home or at the bar by 2:00 pm and remained there during the time we monitored him.
We wanted to see some accounting for the personal use of the taxpayer's car, like when he uses it for his private business.
Even though the IRS requires it, he says there isn't any documentation, other than what the finance department calculated as the mileage between his home and the county building.
"There isn't, I don't have any accounting on it," Nunez said of the personal use beyond the trips from home to work.
He also said he could understand the criticism if the county was in bad financial shape, "but it isn't."
"When you look at the bottom line, as a business person, we are doing very good as commissioners here," he said.
We're still waiting for documentation showing any amount the commissioners have paid to the county for the personal use of the cars.
We're also waiting to view any and all charges made on the commissioners' county credit cards, that includes the third commissioner, Jeff Chostner.
You should know, we didn't receive information about Chostner not working full time, or using his county vehicle for personal business.
The times we were at the county building, Chostner was the first one at the office and almost always still there when the other two left.
Pueblo County's a member of the group Colorado Counties Inc., an association representing county commissioners around the state.
It's handbook states "Elected officials and public employees alike understand they are subject to significant public scrutiny, whatever their activities may involve." Short work days, long lunches and personal business in public cars. A few current and former Pueblo County employees claim that's a typical day for 2 of the commissioners.