Estes Park Trail-Gazette: Over the last two months the Trail-Gazette has submitted a number of Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests to the local marketing district – Visit Estes Park (VEP). These requests were prompted by the resignation of the former CEO Elizabeth Fogarty and began with our CORA request for the details of her severance package. We felt that those details were important for the community to understand how the former CEO’s departure would affect the organization going forward.
A small section in the severance agreement indicated that Fogarty could submit expenses for the previous year within 30 days. We marked our calendars to do a follow-up story if any expenses were submitted, but didn’t think too much about it. When the follow up story revealed that Fogarty has expensed more than $15,000 in 2017 we felt this merited further research.
We went on to submit CORA requests for her 2016 expenses, as well as all the receipts and missing receipt forms for those two years. We submitted questions on VEP’s official policies and how expense reports are processed in general. We have reported out our findings, getting comment from current and past board members, VEP’s accountant, its interim CEO and the Mayor of Estes Park, among others.
What we found through our reporting is that VEP has had weak spending controls and a purchasing policy that is ripe for abuse. We do want to be clear that we have not found any illegal activity on anyone’s part, but that there does appear to have been financial mismanagement in the past.
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