Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why the Weld County Council Should be More Proactive

In my first article titled “The Time Has Come for Weld County Council to Be More Proactive” I presented the mandate that the Weld County Council review “all aspects of County government.”

The Weld County Charter states in Section 13-8(6):
“Council shall review all aspects of county government and shall make such periodic reports to the people relating to expenditures, efficiency, responsiveness, adherence to statutes, laws and regulations, and other matters as the Council deems advisable.”

In that article I proposed the idea of hiring a full-time internal auditor.  In this article I’d like to expand on this idea by addressing three topics – 1) the types of audits that could be performed by this internal audit staff; 2) the use of external experts to perform certain audits; and 3) the structure of other county audit organizations in Colorado and throughout the nation.

Audits would be performed with the goal of increasing the effectiveness and improving the performance of county procedures.  The financial audit currently being performed focuses primarily on large expenditures and does not address data security.  Data security is an important topic given the data breach that occurred previously when a jail inmate was able to access employee data, including social security numbers.  The County processes three types of critical data - health information (HIPAA data), credit card information (PCI data), and personal information for employees and some County residents (Personally Identifiable Information / PII data).  We need to make absolutely certain our systems are secure.

An audit of data security related to the above topics is a good example where the Council would require outside expertise from a firm that specializes in information technology security.  Experts could also be sought to review certain state or federal programs administered by the County, to the extent that these programs aren't already being reviewed. 

I have researched various audit departments throughout the state and the structures vary significantly.  Some are outsourced totally (i.e. Adams County), and some have a sizable internal staff (i.e. Denver County).  There is no right or wrong answer as to size and structure.  I have proposed what I believe is the best of both worlds with a full-time internal resource along with a small budget for two additional audits by external experts. 

I have run a small business for the past 16 years and part of my consulting practice is to help large organizations design internal controls and security.  In my experience, every organization has vulnerabilities and opportunities to improve processes.

One thread was consistent in my research – audits can be highly political in nature.  We are fortunate to have the Weld County Council who acts as an independent non-partisan voice for the citizens of Weld County. 

Please let me know your thoughts about this proposal by emailing me at jeffreythare@gmail or calling me at 970-324-1450.  You could also contact the entire Council at countycouncil@co.weld.co.us.

This article reflects my opinion and not necessarily the views of the rest of the Weld County Council members.

About Jeffrey Hare

Jeffrey Hare is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and Certified Information System Auditor (CISA).  He serves as an At-Large member on the County Council.  He lives in Greeley with his wife Julie to whom he has been married for 21 years.  He and Julie have three daughters who all attend Frontier Academy where Jeffrey also serves on the governing board.  Jeffrey is also founder and CEO of ERP Risk Advisors, an IT consulting firm.


This article is the second part in a two-part series.   In the first article I addressed the mandate of the Weld County Charter and made the case for hiring an internal auditor.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Time Has Come for Weld County Council to Be More Proactive

Weld County has seen phenomenal growth in the past ten years.  Since 2004, our assessed value has grown from $2.9 billion in to $9 billion in 2014, a 210% increase.  During that time, the population of the County has also grown from 218,000 to 264,000, a 21% increase.  Weld County now ranks as the second largest Colorado County in total Assessed Value – behind only Denver.  We have a larger Assessed Value than Jefferson, Arapahoe, and El Paso counties.

Weld County is blessed with plentiful natural resources and a county government which is very pro-business.  Our Commissioners have done a good job of balancing the impacts of the oil and gas activities on the community and environment.  Weld County is also blessed to have the Weld County Charter which was developed by a group of citizens who understand the benefits of local control and the need for holding our elected officials accountable.  The Charter was ratified by our citizens and went into effect in 1976.

The Preamble to our Weld County Charter states:

“We, the people of Weld County, Colorado, in order to avail ourselves of self-determination in county affairs to the fullest extent permissible under the Constitution and laws of the State of Colorado, and in order to provide uncomplicated, unburdensome government responsive to the people, and in order to provide for the most efficient and effective county government possible, do hereby ordain, establish and adopt this Home Rule Charter for Weld County, Colorado.”

The Weld County Charter allows for more local control on some issues.  One of the controls built into the Charter was the establishment of the Weld County Council.  The County Council sets the salaries of elected officials, appoints any County Commissioner vacancies, and monitors the activities of the County outlined here in Section 13-8(6):

“Council shall review all aspects of county government and shall make such periodic reports to the people relating to expenditures, efficiency, responsiveness, adherence to statutes, laws and regulations, and other matters as the Council deems advisable.”

Traditionally, the County Council has taken a less proactive role in this ‘review of all aspects of county government’ initiating audits of certain issues as needed.  I believe the Council could be much more diligent in its reviews by establishing a schedule to regularly review ‘all aspects of county government’ on a more systematic basis.  Current audits don’t cover ‘all aspects’ as outlined in the Charter.

With the growth of our County and because of the mandate of the Weld County Charter, I believe it is time to hire a full time performance auditor that reports to the Council.  This position is normal for most corporations and larger government entities, in order to reduce both operational and financial risks.  This will ensure that we, as duly elected members of the Council, fulfill the role to which you have elected us and gives us an important resource to fulfill this mission.

Please let me know your thoughts about this proposal by emailing me at jeffreythare@gmail or calling me at 970-324-1450.  This article reflects my opinion and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the rest of the Weld County Council members.

About Jeffrey Hare

Jeffrey Hare is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and Certified Information System Auditor (CISA) and serves as an At-Large member on the County Council.  He lives in Greeley with his wife Julie to whom he has been married for 21 years.  He and Julie have three daughters who all attend Frontier Academy where Jeffrey also serves on the governing board.  Jeffrey is also founder and CEO of ERP Risk Advisors, an IT consulting firm.


This article is the first part in a two-part series.   In the second article I will be addressing the types of audits that would be performed by this internal audit staff, addressing the use of external experts to perform certain audits, and the structure of other county audit organizations in Colorado and throughout the nation.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Xcel Energy - What Comes Around Goes Around

Xcel Energy - What Comes Around Goes Around

Xcel Energy has been playing the crony capitalism card for years.  They've played both sides of the aisle like a fiddle.  They've energized the eco-left to believe that government subsidizing (i.e. crony capitalism) of wind and solar is good for the environment in spite of the lack of evidence.  They've also given donations to Republican candidates and were able to 'convince' several Republican legislators to vote to distort the free market (so much for principles...).

Karma - the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences or destiny or fate, following as effect from cause

The City of Boulder is causing some Karma for Xcel Energy.  They are now threatening to use eminent domain to seize the property of Xcel Energy to create their own municipal utility.


While I don't condone the use of eminent domain to seize the property of another person or entity such as Xcel, I do find it quite ironic that Karma is setting in.  Xcel's agenda for the past 15 years has been to increase their profits in the state of Colorado by increasing the cost of the energy they provide.  They are a 'cost plus' provider.  That is the profits they make increase as the input costs for energy increase.  So, as they have been 'forced' to use higher cost inputs such as wind and solar, they have made more profit.

Xcel's strategy has worked like a charm up until recently.  This is what we have in Colorado - mostly to the efforts of Xcel:
  • 2003 Colorado constitutional amendment - this forced all Investor Owned Utilities to use a minimum of 10% of their inputs from wind and solar
  • 2007 - Legislation to increase the Investor Owned Utilities to 20% and enact a 10% mandate on Rural Electric Associations
  • 2010 - Legislation to increase the Investor Owned Utilities to 30%
  • 2013 - Legislation to increase Rural Electric Associations to 20%
Xcel's 'friends' over the past few years are turning on them and that my friends is Karma.  First, it was Solar City and now it is the eco-left City of Boulder.  Couldn't happen to a better group of Crony Capitalists who've abused the legislative process and stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from ratepayers in Colorado.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Xcel Energy Strikes Again: Now Even Solar Companies are Opposing Xcel’s agenda

Xcel Energy Strikes Again: Now Even Solar Companies are Opposing Xcel’s agenda

One company in Colorado has perfected lobbying and the art of manipulating emotions of both Republicans and Democrats to further their corporate agenda – that being Xcel Energy.  Xcel is an ‘Investor Owned Utility’ and makes a profit on a ‘cost plus’ model.  That is, as their costs rise, their profits rise.  Let’s illustrate this with a simple example and for the sake of illustration let’s assume their profit margin is 6% above their costs.

Monthly bill
12% Profit margin on utility charges
$ 12.00
$ 14.40
$ 24.00
In the table above, we see how an increase in what they bill to us increases their profits.  The more we pay on our utility bills, the more the profits Xcel makes for their investors. 
The way they increase their profit margins is to make politicians in Colorado increase their costs.  If they can also convince voters directly that they should pay higher utility rates, that would also be beneficial.
So… this is exactly what Xcel energy has been doing for the past ten years.  It was a driving force behind the 10% alternative energy mandate passed by voters in 2003 via a state Constitutional amendment.  Xcel was also a driving force behind the increase to 20% in 2007 and increase to 30% in 2010.  Xcel was also a driving force behind the fuel switching bill in 2010 that forced power plants to convert from coal to natural gas.
Producers of alternative energy have also benefited as they have been able to produce and sell alternative energy to Xcel.  One of these producers is Solar City has been a significant beneficiary of the alternative energy mandates, riding the coattails of Xcel.  However, it seems that Xcel has turned on solar providers such as Solar City.  The CEO of Solar City sent out this email in December:

It seems that Xcel energy insatiable appetite to increase its cost base has reached a new level as it has turned on its own.  Solar City’s December rally against Xcel is a sign that Xcel believes there are no barriers too high to climb and no legislator that can’t be bought to further their profit motives.  Grab some popcorn, this battle should be interesting to watch.

Unfortunately, families, ranchers, farmers, and other small businesses are the consumers of electricity in Xcel’s service area that will be biggest losers and Xcel’s shareholders will be the winner.  Xcel has a long history of winning this war in Colorado and wouldn't be turning on its partners like Solar City if they didn’t believe they had the support from the Colorado legislature to protect their profits.

While I expect the Democrats to be in favor of alternative energy policy, it is truly disappointing to see how many Republicans have voted for legislation in favor of Xcel over the past 10 years - there are many familiar names in the list: Greg Brophy, Cory Gardner, Frank McNulty, Jerry Sonnenberg, BJ Nikkel, Kevin Priola, Glenn Vaad, Amy Stephens, Marsha Looper, and the list goes on...  It seems that both the Democrat and Republican parties has, at times, sold its soul to Xcel on the backs of consumers throughout the state.  The question is who is looking out for the little guy???

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Colorado’s Concealed Carry Law Hurts Charter School Safety

Colorado’s Concealed Carry Law Hurts Charter School Safety

by Jeffrey T. Hare

In 2003, the Colorado State legislature passed a bill that allows adults (who pass a criminal background check) the ability to carry a concealed handgun for their personal protection. Prior to that, law-abiding citizens were only allowed to openly carry a handgun on their hip (which, of course, makes it more difficult to “get the drop” on a bad guy). That’s why passage of Colorado’s “shall issue” concealed carry law was such a major victory for gun owners. It meant that law-abiding citizens could discretely reserve the option of protecting life and limb while in public places, without alarming the innocent, or tipping off criminals, in their midst.

Along with passage of Colorado’s new concealed carry bill, the legislature also passed several provisions regulating the carrying of firearms on schools campuses by persons other than students. One such provision allows authorized security personnel, in the employ of the school district, to carry a concealed handgun “as part of their normal duties.” While the presence of an internal “first responder”  armed with a handgun certainly doesn’t guarantee anyone’s safety, it gives students, teachers, and staff a “fighting chance” to survive what is becoming an all too common occurrence in our schools.

Prior to the adoption of the Colorado Concealed Carry Act of 2003 security personnel hired by a charter schools could carry a handgun concealed.  However, the language in 18-12-214(3)(b) states “employee…retained…by a school district.”  Employees of charter schools are NOT considered school district employees, but rather employees of the each specific charter school.  Therefore, a strict interpretation of this statute by the courts could mean that security officers hired by charter schools would not be allowed to carry their weapon concealed. This is foolish public policy, and deprives charter schools of retaining well-trained, qualified security personnel to protect staff and students. Often charter schools cannot afford to hire off-duty police officers, so they must rely on retired lawmen, combat veterans, or adequately trained civilians for campus security. Unfortunately, the Colorado legislature took away the conceal carry option from charter schools in its CCW reform effort in 2003.

Charter schools are a significant, and growing part of the education of K-12 students. The students, teachers, and staff of Colorado’s 170-plus charter schools deserve the chance to survive an act of workplace/campus violence, just as much as their public school counterparts. I call on all gun owners in Colorado to urge our state legislature to amend Colorado’s Concealed Carry law to give charter schools the statutory authorization to allow security personnel to carry concealed, just like every other law abiding Coloradan.

Jeffrey Hare is a successful small businessman, life-long gun owner, a charter school board member, and an at-large member of the Weld County Council. Hare lives with his wife of 20 years, and three children in Greeley, Colorado.

press contact: jeffreythare@gmail.com

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hollow Rhetoric versus Measurable Results in the War on Guns

Sometimes, it seems, there is a tendency to ignore the realities on the ground in favor of colorful rhetoric from afar. The recent passage of a raft of anti-gun measures here in Colorado, and the across-the-board-defeat of a broad-range of new federal gun restrictions in the U.S. Congress, are two prime examples.

Let’s revisit the political landscape on guns over the past calendar year. Horrific stories of public massacres in Aurora and Newtown filled the headlines. The mainstream broadcast and print media were awash with stories of tragedy, scapegoating, and despair. Grieving families demanded “action,” and the President spoke forcefully about the need to enact a tougher gun control regime at his annual State-of-the-Union address. Talking heads on both sides, including former Republican Congressman (and MSNBC morning show host) Joe Scarborough, predicted the end of the gun lobby’s influence, while professional anti-gun agitators (from groups like the Brady Campaign) bragged about “the inevitable passage of new gun safety” measures.

And it didn’t just stop there. Republican billionaire, and Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, got into the action by launching a cynical nationwide television campaign that attempted to divide gun owners amongst themselves (Bloomberg himself doesn’t really believe in private gun ownership of any kind, so his campaign is a farce).

Recently-elected Senator Pat Toomey, a darling of the economic-libertarian Right (and a favorite of the Club for Growth) joined West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin (who also had been recently elected to the U.S. Senate, in part, because of his “strong pro-gun views”) to propose a “compromise” on background checks.  Even conservative direct-mail powerhouse Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Bellevue, Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, turned tail and switched sides. The average gun enthusiast couldn’t help but thinking that it was all slipping away. Even formerly reliable pro-gun voices were “going wobbly in the knees,” as a recently departed icon of British conservatism once reminded our own Chief Executive.

Long-time proponents of a vast array of new federal gun restrictions were truly “on the march,” and it seemed, in political ascendency. The stars seemed to be aligned for a bi-partisan abandonment of Second Amendment in the federal legislature.

And then, abruptly (and somewhat anti-climatically) the tidal wave of restrictionist fervor was stopped cold in its tracks, in front of the whole country. Cable news talking heads like Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell were apoplectic, and gasping for answers. Charles Schumer lowered his head in dismay. In the days since the vote, even the oft-repeated public polling numbers on new gun restrictions has begun to swing back the other way.

So what led to this surprising turn of events, and who stemmed the tide? It’s quite simple. It was stopped by the organization that everyone (including some in the larger “gun lobby”) had written off as antiquated and ineffective. An organization that had been repeatedly accused of being either “too uncompromising” or “too quick to compromise” by its critics; the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). 

In a series of beautifully-orchestrated, and precisely-timed, tactical maneuvers (admittedly over the course of several weeks) NRA-ILA’s talented lobbying team (spearheaded by unsung heroes like Chris Cox and Senior Federal Lobbyist Jeff Freeman)  laid the legislative groundwork that not only stopped the Feinstein Ban on so-called “assault rifles” (a completely inaccurate term, in and of itself) and new restrictions on high-capacity magazines, but also any new restrictions on private party transfers (that were the basis of the vaunted Toomey-Manchin sell-out). In other words, every single anti-gun measure in the U.S. Senate under serious consideration, was either tabled, or defeated, on the Senate floor.

NRA-ILA’s legislative victory stands in sharp contrast to what happened here in Colorado in March, where a flood a draconian gun control bills sailed through the Colorado legislature, and swiftly were signed into law by the Governor. So, how did two legislative battles so similar in substance, have such markedly different outcomes?

One could sum it up in two words; Dudley Brown.

After nearly two decades of self-proclaimed dominance of the gun rights movement here in Colorado, Dudley Brown, and the groups he founded (Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the National Association for Gun Rights) couldn’t put a dent in the anti-gun juggernaut in his own backyard. Which begs the question; just how effective is Mr. Brown (and his two Colorado-based gun groups) at stopping any gun control measures in Colorado, or at helping to elect pro-gun candidates of either party to the Colorado legislature?

It’s been a rough couple of years for Mr. Brown. First Mr. Brown’s organizational competence came into question when news reports surfaced that the “uncompromising” gun-rights group he founded, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, hadn’t filed their federal income tax returns for at least three years. Mr. Brown blamed the lack of lawful compliance on a “computer crash,” and evaded responsibility, even though he had been at the organization’s helm for nearly two decades. More recently, Brown was named a defendant in a federal lawsuit regarding misleading direct mail campaigns (from the East Coast) he allegedly orchestrated and paid for, having nothing to do with the gun rights movement. But more on that later.

As if that wasn’t enough, recent new reports have surfaced that Mr. Brown has been misrepresenting his academic credentials (perhaps, for many years). Come to find out that the “B.A. from Colorado State University,” is a complete fabrication. Mr. Brown actually never graduated with any degree, from any college or university (attending college is not the same as holding a degree from a college).

Once again, instead of standing tall, and accepting personal responsibility, he chose to blame others for his own actions. When asked to respond, Mr. Brown claimed that not only had he “not written” his own bio, but even more incredibly, that he had never actually read his own bio on the groups’ website. He failed to mention that the same false claims had been “un-corrected” on his Wikipedia profile, and in written RMGO materials, for years.

But gun activists in Colorado haven’t just been let down by Mr. Brown’s managerial incompetence and ethical gaffes. Lately, his political tactics and legislative strategy have also come into question. The evidence, in part, comes not only from his poor personal reputation in legislative circles (perhaps due to a striking deficit in what experts call emotional intelligence), but also from how Mr. Brown spends his groups’ grassroots financial contributions.

RMGO’s expenditures during the 2012 election cycle (and many other cycles as well), tell the tale. How much did RMGO spend attacking anti-gun Democrats?  The answer is, very little.

None of it made very much sense to me over the years, until now.

Thanks to recently released emails (uncovered during the federal lawsuit discovery process) between Brown and his third-party direct mail groups in the D.C. Beltway, we know a little more about where Brown has been directing RMGO’s money, time, and energy over the years. Here’s a hint: it hasn’t been spent defending the Second Amendment

Apparently, Mr. Brown has been (for many years) using third-party “front groups” that claim to represent hot-button social issues (like abortion and gay marriage), but in reality, are little  more than direct mail operations designed to “punish” Mr. Brown’s opponents. When voters receive these last-minute attack mailers they get the impression that the candidate in question (whichever candidate Mr. Brown opposes at the time) are also opposed by a “wide spectrum” of other conservative groups. The mailers are often completely false, as with my own legislative race, where Dudley’s Beltway minions sent pieces that claimed that I was pro-gay rights and “soft” on Pro-Life issues. Anyone that knows me, knows these claims are laughable. But by then, the damage has been done.

I use the term front group intentionally because there is little evidence these groups do anything except serve as a sort of “ideological back channel,” for operators like Brown.  These “groups” have no real influence of their own (at either the state or federal level), they produce no publications of any substance (either in the policy or legislative arena), and their money (and direction) comes primarily from other conservative groups seeking to use them as “cover” for their electioneering (excuse me “voter education”) activities.

One wonders what long-time RMGO members, some of whom could care less about such hot-button social issues, might think about their money being diverted away from the defense of the Second Amendment. And more importantly, might his side-job (as defender of conservative social values) explain why he has so little influence in the Colorado legislature on the gun issue?

Many conservative leaders are beginning, for the first time, to question his leadership. So much so that RMGO has actually made a plea to supporters on YouTube saying that they will “target anti-gun Democrats in the 2014 elections.”  Huh? Why wasn’t this RMGO’s strategy in 2012 in state legislative races or in 2010 when the Governorship was lost?  Or the ten election cycles before that?

While NRA-ILA was busy demolishing perhaps the biggest legislative assault on gun rights in two decades at the federal level, Dudley Brown’s “extra-curricular activities” had been laying the groundwork for substantial setbacks to the gun rights movement in Colorado. While Dudley Brown was accusing NRA-ILA of “selling us out,” NRA-ILA was busy fighting tooth and nail in the legislative trenches, where it distinguished itself with class, poise, and a single-minded determination.

NRA-ILA produced a substantial defensive victory, when the odds were heavily stacked against them, while Brown failed to stop any of the major gun control bills this spring in a state where he has been dominant for two decades. Measurable results versus hollow rhetoric.
These are dangerous times for supporters of the Second Amendment, both in Colorado, and across the nation. The next time you hear criticism of the National Rifle Association, by people on your own side, ask yourself one question; what is the actual record of victories and defeats between NRA-ILA and self-styled “no compromise” activists like Dudley Brown? The answer is, it’s not even close.
Jeffrey Hare is a successful small businessman, life-long gun owner, and member of the Weld County Council. Hare lives with his wife of 20 years, and three children in Greeley, Colorado. He was not endorsed, or supported, by NRA-ILA in his 2012 legislative race.


press contact: jeffreythare@gmail.com