Opponents of Colton Black are questioning his fitness to serve as La Plata County treasurer, pointing to a personal bankruptcy he filed in 2012. But Black says it is a last-minute attempt to smear him and distract voters from his qualifications.
Black said his bankruptcy filing was a personal matter between him and his ex-wife that has no bearing on his ability to oversee county finances.
Several commenters on social media and in letters to The Durango Herald call out Black's bankruptcy as proof that he wouldn't be good at overseeing county finances. They have repeatedly shared an online link to the website BrokerageCheck, which provides details of the bankruptcy filing.
"I don't want someone who can't handle their own finances handling La Plata County's money," Carol Cure, a Durango resident, commented on the Herald's website.
Management of finances is at the forefront of the race between Black and incumbent Treasurer Allison Aichele. Black has repeatedly questioned Aichele's capability at her job after an outside firm found errors in bookkeeping and processing in the office. As a result, the county is a "high risk" auditee and must pay more for audit costs for the next three years.
Black said in an email to the Herald that his bankruptcy was part of a divorce.
"In a divorce, even if your divorce decree assigns responsibility to pay certain jointly held debts to your ex-spouse, the creditor can still come after you if they fail to pay," Black wrote.
"You can then take your ex back to court to seek recourse for failing to comply with the divorce decree, but that doesn't mean your credit won't still be irreparably damaged in the meantime."
Black said his attorney advised him to file a joint bankruptcy before the divorce to create a cleaner break and avoid potential for future litigation.
"If you search bankruptcy and divorce, you will see this is a pretty common occurrence," Black wrote.
Black's bankruptcy filings on Public Access to Court Electronic Records, also known as PACER, show the bankruptcy was a joint-bankruptcy filing between him and his ex-wife in 2012.
Black said to obtain the numerous banking and investment licenses he currently holds requires an extensive background, credit and financial fitness check.
"If there was any concern, they wouldn't have licensed me, and by law you must update the various reporting agencies with any changes," Black said. "The fact that all of these licenses are still valid serves as solid proof that I am financially fit to serve as county treasurer."
Black said all of this information is public record, and that his opponents are using it as a way to discredit him before Election Day on Nov. 6.
"Don't let this be the distraction they want it to be," Black said. "I assure you I am highly qualified to be our next county treasurer, and I have a solid plan to fix the current problems in our Treasurer's Office."
Aichele said she became aware of Black's bankruptcy filing after seeing it on the BrokerageCheck website. She declined to say whether the filing has any bearing on a person's ability to serve as treasurer.
"I can only say the Treasurer's Office is an accounting office and we have financial accountability," she said. "We have to be 100 percent accurate in all our accounts."
Black countered that Aichele also filed for personal bankruptcy around 2015 or 2016. Black said he is in the process of trying to pull the public records to support his claim. As of Thursday, the Herald had found no such filings on public websites such as PACER.
Aichele denied she has filed personal bankruptcy. On Thursday, she delivered her personal credit score to a Herald reporter to show she has good personal financial standing.
"I have never filed for bankruptcy or contemplated that, so don't know where that is coming from," she said.