Denver Water is a public agency, but if you want to know about its budget practices, you’ll have to find a way into a closed executive session. That’s what Face the State learned after filing a Colorado Open Records request for internal audits, only to learn the documents and the meetings around them are kept almost entirely secret by chief internal auditor Prescott Coleman, utility manager Jim Lochhead, and Denver Water’s five-member governing body. Face the State requested two years of audits, and in return received just nine sheets of paper with brief summaries of the audits and the findings. A document dated September 30 reveals a review of “paving contracts” found problems with things like “contract pricing controls,” “budget to actual spending comparison,” and “special rates,” but offers no other details.
The audits can be dozens of pages long, says water board president John Lucero, and their contents are discussed behind closed doors because sensitive issues, such as legal advice or personnel matters, may be discussed. Last year, the board was criticized by members of Denver’s city council for seemingly unusual expenses: $2,000 for line dancing classes, $4,800 for golf outings, $2,500 for the softball team, and various other line items justified as part of a workplace wellness program, in addition to $750 for an event at the Fort restaurant and two $105 tabs at Hooters. Meanwhile, in a guest editorial for the Denver Post, Lochhead outlines 10 priorities for Denver Water, which include investing in upgrades to aging pipelines but make no mention of audits.