The coronavirus has slowed but not stopped the state’s investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds by a city of Durango employee, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
CBI investigators can’t perform elements of the investigation that involve face-to-face interaction, like reviewing records or interviewing in person because of social-distancing restrictions. However, the investigation remains a priority for the agency, said Susan Medina, CBI spokeswoman. The agency began investigating the alleged misappropriation in October.
“We’re trying to figure out workarounds so we can keep the case moving forward, but maintain social distancing to keep our folks healthy and community members safe as well,” Medina said.
While COVID-19 has affected many types of cases, agents can still make progress and the CBI lab is fully functioning, she said.
In October, the city announced it had placed an employee on paid administrative leave while it investigated the alleged misappropriation of public funds.
Former Finance Director Julie Brown resigned a day after she was placed on administrative leave. The city did not directly name Brown in connection with the investigation, but confirmed Brown was the only city employee to resign at the time.
Both interim City Manager Amber Blake and Medina declined to comment Friday about whether Brown was being investigated in connection with the alleged misappropriation of funds.
Blake also declined to provide information about how much money was misappropriated, how long the misappropriation might have lasted or what kind of safeguards the city has implemented to protect city funds.
“As a result of the ongoing investigation, I cannot comment, other than to confirm that the investigation is underway and has not been put on hold due to the pandemic,” Blake said.
It remains unclear how long the investigation will take.
Financial investigations can last months or more, depending on evidence discovered during the investigation, Medina said.
“These aren’t three-day turnarounds for the most part. They’re very comprehensive in nature,” she said.
In non-financial crimes, investigators can visit a scene then collect and test evidence. In a financial investigation, agents need to identify specific transactions, review them, conduct interviews and do other research.
CBI agents will be reviewing city financials and conducting interviews as part of the investigation, Medina said.
“This investigation will be as long as necessary to uncover all of the information the agents need to find,” she said.
The CBI declined to comment Friday about the investigation’s progress.
Once the investigation is complete, the agency will present its evidence to the 6th Judicial District. The District Attorney’s Office will determine how it moves forward.
“We know this is a priority for the city and the community as a whole. It’s a priority for us,” Medina said. “It is moving. It’s not complete yet.”