We wrote earlier today about the controversy over poorly-explained delays by Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s staff in issuing certificates of participation, bond-like instruments to provide funding for roads and other capital construction projects that were supposed to be issued on July 1 to allow those projects to proceed. Stapleton’s deputy in the treasurer’s office blasted Democrats for a “poorly orchestrated and ill-informed political attack,” while simultaneously admitting that the concern over the delay was legitimate–even to the point of explaining that a lawyer who had argued for the delay based on a pro-TABOR lawsuit by conservative activists had been fired. As The Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reported today:
[T]he treasurer’s office acknowledged that the lawyer who counseled Stapleton to delay financing had been fired and that the staff member who told the project committee that financing would have to be delayed “didn’t have the current information.” [Pols emphasis]
Based on this update, Rep. Daneya Esgar of the Capital Development Committee said she was “pleased” that the funding would be able to at least get moving by the Treasurer’s office’s revised September deadline–based on the belief that the objections inside Stapleton’s office had been resolved.
But as Westword’s Nora Alabi reports in a new Friday story, apparently nobody told this to Walker Stapleton!
At a press conference July 19 at the Colorado Farm Bureau headquarters in Centennial, where Stapleton was discussing the impacts of President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Colorado’s agricultural exports after a private roundtable, reporters asked the state treasurer about the letter and capital construction delays. Stapleton called Democratic accusations that his delay issuing bonds was ideologically motivated a “fabricated political stunt” and a “perfect example of why people lose faith in government.” Stapleton says the delay is justified because of pending litigation that could determine the fate of the capital construction funds. Not only is the outcome of the lawsuit unknown, it has made investors in the bond markets antsy, he adds. [Pols emphasis]
“My paramount concern as the treasurer of Colorado is to make sure we’re not issuing bonds when there is economic uncertainty. Anybody in the capital markets can tell you that from an investment standpoint, when you’re issuing bonds and those bonds are being impacted by pending litigation, which we had nothing to do with, it makes investors skiddish,” Stapleton says. “I’m not going to issue bonds when it could negatively impact the credit of Colorado based on hair around the deal resulting from the lawsuit. It would be fiscally irresponsible for me to do so…”
“The statute calls for the bonds to be issued within the fiscal year. We’re going to issue those bonds in September, which is well ahead of schedule,” Stapleton says. The lawsuit he cites as reason for the delay, however, does not to go trial until late October.
Westword reports that these certificates of participation are not the only financial instruments apparently stymied by the TABOR lawsuit, with bonds to add an additional lane to I-25 between Castle Rock and Monument also delayed for the same stated reason–a lawsuit that Stapleton’s deputy says doesn’t matter.
So folks, which is it? Is the delay justified or isn’t it? Is the TABOR lawsuit the reason for the delay issuing these certificates and bonds…or isn’t it? All of these questions begin and end inside Stapleton’s office. Stapleton is the only one who can explain what’s really going on, and in the last 24 hours the treasurer and his deputy treasurer have said two directly contradictory things that no one has even tried to clarify. The situation is almost, well, Trumpian.
The one thing we do know is it’s absolutely absurd for Stapleton, either in his official capacity as treasurer or as a gubernatorial candidate, to lay this confusion at the feet of Democrats. Until Stapleton and his staff can get on the same page as to what is happening here and why, they’re making colossal fools only of themselves.