Treasurer candidates clarify experience, qualifications

In order to further clarify the experience and qualifications of the two candidates running for Archuleta County treasurer, SUN staff followed up on certain comments each candidate made during a previous interview.

Kelly Evans — Write-in

Evans’ 10-year connection to the treasurer’s office may prove the Achilles heel in her campaign. Throughout the county’s financial crisis, allegations of mismanagement left the office, under former treasurer Lois Baker, tagged as being one the major contributors to the county’s financial unraveling.

County financial records, audit reports and staff statements however, indicate the county’s financial demise was years in the making and can be traced, in part, to the practices of former treasurer Traves Garrett, finance director Bob Burchett and former boards of county commissioners.

Evans worked under both treasurers, Baker and Garret; therefore, it could be argued she was aware, even complicit, in the financial mismanagement that led to the county crisis.

Evans had this to say: “I have a real problem with the word ‘complicity.’ ‘Complicity’ means conspiring or contributing to the problem. Any treasurer who took office would have had a huge problem to deal with. When Lois took over she was in a horrible position. Things had been done wrong for years. She had a choice to shut down the county and she didn’t. Lois was not the cause of the problem. She may have been a symptom of a much larger problem but she was not the cause.”

When asked why she defended former treasurer Lois Baker, Evans said, “I defended her because she was not the one that was creating the problem. She was completely unequipped to deal with the situation in the first few months (after Baker took office.)”

Evans said she had seen poor financial management practices while working under former Archuleta County Treasurer Traves Garrett, but said her job had been threatened on several occasions when she brought the issues to Garrett.

Evans said it was only when Baker took office that, together, they had the courage to bring the issues to county management and the board of county commissioners.

“I’ve seen a lot of things done wrong over the years. I’ve seen complacency, laziness and ignorance — and I’ve seen the damage that was done.

“I justify my candidacy because with the situation the county is in, you can’t bring in someone who has to start from square one.”

Evans said her 10 years in the treasurer’s office are an asset, not a liability, and make her uniquely qualified to take the helm, training new staff and facilitating with the transition to a new software program.

“The ten years has given me a chance to see what has gone wrong and what needs to be done right to improve. It kills me to be penalized for being in the office for eight years without the ability to make changes.

“We are not at a point in the county where there is so much veteran help that a newly-elected official can walk in and expect a smooth transition. The treasurer has to lead and train. The treasurer (elect) is not going to have time to learn the job.”

Betty Diller — Republican

Diller’s campaign has been dogged by allegations on two fronts. First, some have said Diller’s 2002 bankruptcy filing on her financial services firm, Betty Financial Dynamics Inc., makes her ability to manage county finances suspect.

Second, in light of Diller’s reported academic and professional experience, questions remain whether Diller’s financial savvy is as she has advertised.

For example, Diller said she earned a degree in social work from Oklahoma Christian College, has operated successful businesses and has worked as a business and investment advisor for multi-million dollar and international clients.

According to a Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies report, Diller is listed as a full-time homemaker between April 1980 and December 1994.

According to the same report, between Jan 1994 and April 1994, Diller is listed as a receptionist for H&R Block in Garden City, Kan. From January 1995 to June 1995, the report lists Diller as a secretary for H&R Block in Pagosa Springs, while the report shows her taking ownership of the Pagosa Springs H&R Block franchise in June of 1995.

According to the report, Diller was employed by H.D. Vest Investment Securities in May of 1997, although the report makes no mention of Betty Financial Dynamics Inc.

While Diller addressed the bankruptcy issue in last week’s SUN, staff asked Diller to fill in employment gaps and explain why certain licensure requirements were done under the name of H.D. Vest Investment Securities and not Betty Financial Dynamics Inc.

In regard to licensure, Diller said she wanted to become a registered investment advisor, but in order to do so, had to be sponsored by a “qualified firm” — in this case, H.D. Vest Investment Securities. According to the timetable in the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies report, all licenses associated with insurance and securities were presumably obtained with H.D. Vest as her sponsor.

In regard to advising multi-million dollar and international clients, Diller said privacy laws prohibited her from disclosing the names of those individuals or companies.

“When I was working with a business as an employee or consultant it was not as an investment advisor, but as a business and financial advisor,” Diller said.

To clarify the distinction between the two, Diller said an investment advisor would deal with securities and retirement plans while business and financial advising deals with cash flow management, employee benefit programs, regulatory compliance and profitability analysis.

Diller also added the following to her employment history.

In the early 1990s, Diller said she operated Diller Enterprises, a retail craft business, with her husband, in Cañon City, Colo.

She sold securities through H.D. Vest Investment Securities between 1997 and 2001. She said she sold securities in the same office as her Pagosa Springs H&R Block franchise until the franchise sold and she incorporated Betty Financial Dynamics in 2001.

In conjunction with tax preparation services at the H&R Block franchise, Diller said she operated Betty Diller Financial Services a business consulting and bookkeeping service.

When asked about the primary thrust of Betty Financial Dynamics, Diller said, “We were going to work with clients managing their investments, setting up long term care policies, employee benefit packages that also included health and life insurance for their employees.”

She said the firm was also going to assist businesses streamline their business and financial practices, including cash flow management.

james@pagosasun.com