Adams County’s treasurer is failing to do her job, leaving taxpayer money unaccounted for, commissioners say

Hart Van Denberg/CPR News
The Adams County Government Center.

A new lawsuit alleges Adams County’s current treasurer hasn’t kept county books up to date or produced required monthly financial reports since taking office over two years ago, leaving tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds unaccounted for.

The Adams County Board of Commissioners filed the suit in county court on Thursday. It requests a judge appoint a replacement for Lisa Culpepper, the elected county treasurer, and put together an independent committee to audit her office. 

“We are unified as a Board that legal action is required to ensure this independently elected office is transparent in the accounting of county taxpayer dollars,” the commissioners said in a statement. “The Treasurer serves as the bank for Adams County, and by law, these accounts must be open to inspection.” 

Adams County voters elected Culpepper, a Democrat, in November 2018, and she took office in January 2019. For most of her tenure, she hasn’t filed required monthly tax reports or semi-annual reports to the Board of Commissioners, according to the lawsuit.

It also claims Culpepper has also refused to cooperate with two attempted audits of her office. During the first attempt in October 2020, Culpepper provided “a few” documents to auditors, but refused to comply with walk-through meetings or requests for more financial information.

Culpepper did not respond immediately to CPR’s request for comment.

Based on the available documents, auditors found many “red flags,” according to the lawsuit. These included a “lack of timeliness between receipt of cash and the recording of cash into the appropriate system, lack of appropriate segregation of duties, and questionable journal entry reversals.” 

In one example, auditors found Culpepper failed to record $90,285,974.40 in CARES Act stimulus funds until 209 days after the county received it.

In July 2021, county commissioners met with Culpepper to “address their concerns about lack of participation in the audit. Culpepper alleged the accounting firm was “biased,” according to the lawsuit.

Afterwards, the county hired another auditor to complete the investigation, but board members argue Culpepper still is not cooperating.

According to her campaign website, Culpepper ran her own private law practice for more than two decades before becoming treasurer. Before that, she worked as a tax compliance, operations and legislative liaison for the Colorado Department of Revenue. 

She also teaches business law, economics and other courses at Red Rocks Community College, according to her website. 

She will be up for reelection next year; her current term expires in 2023. 

The Secretary of State’s office has twice fined Culpepper’s election committee for late filing of financial documents.

A judge still needs to review the Board of Commissioners’ complaint.

If Culpepper isn’t replaced, commissioners said, the lack of proper financial accounting could hurt the county’s bond rating and financial outlook. 

“Transparency is among the core values in public service and this Board is committed to providing our residents and partner agencies with access to financial records, audit reports, and confidence in good governance,” the board said.