Secretary of State responds to AP story
In a story by Associated Press reporter Steven Paulson, “Coffman gave himself blank check in disaster plan” published in the Summit Daily News, Paulson mischaracterizes a disaster recovery plan that I had in place during my tenure as Colorado State Treasurer.Paulson opens the article by suggesting that the reason why I developed a disaster recovery plan was because I disagreed with former Governor Bill Owens. Framing the story in that context – me against the Governor – makes the story more interesting; however, in reality this is not an accurate representation of the facts. The truth is that after September 11, 2001 the Governor initiated a program to develop contingency plans for all departments – I agreed with the Governor that such an effort was needed. The Governor’s office asked each department to develop a plan for their office and the Treasury cooperated in developing such a plan.Paulson then writes that I “stashed blank checks” in a safe deposit box worth up to $1 billion, as part of this plan. Paulson’s disappointing word choice belittles the seriousness of the issue and seems to be an attempt to make the story more controversial, regardless of the facts.Blank checks are not worth anything until they are properly executed; so how much they may or may not be worth is an open question. The real issue is not what the checks may have been worth, but the fact that I developed a continuity of government plan to ensure that the State of Colorado could continue to function even in the event of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack that would knock out the state’s computer systems.Paulson concluded his story with a quote from Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald questioning my authority as Treasurer to develop such a plan. It is important to note (because Paulson does not) that the State Treasurer is an independently elected position entrusted with making transfers out of the state’s operating account and writing checks on a daily basis to fund government. The sole purpose of the emergency plan I developed was to allow the Treasurer’s office to continue performing this function, without interruption, during a crisis. To say that an elected public official does not have the authority to develop a plan that would allow his or her office to continue working during a crisis is bizarre. If Fitz-Gerald is concerned about accountability, which is always a legitimate concern, then she should know (and I’m sure she does) that any actions of the state Treasurer, taken during a crisis or at any other time, are subject to a full review by the state auditor, who, by the way, works for the Legislature.Paulson fails to mention this critical point, leaving the reader with the impression that under this plan the Treasurer is free to write checks without any accountability. It’s just another misrepresentation in a disappointing article from a seasoned reporter who should know better.
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