'Taxpayers Are Getting Ripped'

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– A former Adams County Commissioner says for two terms, he pocketed full-time pay for part-time work.

“If I was a taxpayer I’d be really ticked,” said Larry Pace, a Democrat, who served as an Adams County Commissioner from 2003 through 2011.

Pace, 73, made $87,300 in his final four years, even though he says he only worked part time.

“I would work about 22 hours, maybe,” said Pace. “That was it.”

On top of his comfortable salary, Pace says taxpayers also paid for his car and gas, cellphone, out of state conference trips and a benefit package that likely cost taxpayers another $30,000 per year.

“I do consider it a cush job,” Pace said.

Pace said he is speaking out now because Adams County voters are being asked to approve a measure on the November 6 ballot that would increase the number of Adams County commissioners from three to five, something Pace says is unnecessary.

“I see no value to spend $400,000 so two more individuals will come in and get a high paying job.”

Pace uses his own political career as exhibit A for why voters should defeat the measure. Pace says he was “absolutely” collecting full time pay for a part time job.

“This is a time to let taxpayers know if they hire two more commissioners they are getting really ripped off,” said Pace.

Pace says the over-compensation continued even after he was voted out of office. He says after just eight years as a commissioner his defined benefit pension package adds up to about $32,000 each year for the rest of his life.

“Sounds awful generous,” said Pace. “I think that’s a good deal going if that’s what you want to say.”

His inflammatory remarks are stirring mixed reactions. Erik Hansen, Adams County’s lone Republican commissioner, favors ballot measure 1-A.

“When you add another commissioner you add another level of accountability. There’s an additional level of representation. We are a big county of about 450,000 people at this point; they deserve to be represented by more than three folks. When you have three commissioners you only need a friend to get something passed. When you have five commissioners what you need is a majority,” said Hansen.

Hansen disputes Pace’s assessment of the job as being easy money.

“That’s probably how Larry did it, that’s not how I do my job. Maybe he only worked part-time, maybe that’s why he lost the election,” said Hansen.

Hansen said in the last two weeks, he could document working 76 hours on his commissioner job.

Hansen also said that the county’s pension plan has been revamped since Pace left in 2011. Hansen said after eight years of service, his pension will be about one-third of what Pace receives.

Alice Nichol, another Adams County Commissioner who was a Democrat until she switched her affiliation in July to unaffiliated said she agrees with Pace that adding two commissioners is a waste of money.

“And so yes, it’s a very lucrative job really for the time that’s spent with it,” Nichol told CBS4.

When asked, “Do you think its full-time pay for part-time work?” Nichols responded, “Yes I do.”

Salaries for Colorado’s county commissioners are set by the legislature. Adams County commissioners are in the top salary tier.

The $87,300 they are paid is almost as much as the $90,000 a year earned by the Governor, and is more than the salary for the Colorado Attorney General, who makes $80,000 per year.

Given his feelings about being overpaid and underworked, Larry Pace was asked if he planned to return any of his past salary or current pension money to the Adams County general fund.

“I don’t know that I’m going to do it,” Pace responded.

He said he believes he has essentially given money back by spending about $5,000 out of his own pocket to fight ballot measure 1-A.

– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com


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