DENVER — Employees at History Colorado have used staff credit cards meant for official functions to buy individual coffees and lunches, according to a state audit released Tuesday.
The report found that History Colorado spent about $1 million for expenses classified as official functions from 2009 through 2014 — a large amount compared to other state entities of similar size, auditors said. For instance, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which has a budget of about $40.6 million, spent $590,430 on official functions during that same timeframe. History Colorado's budget is $32.1 million.
History Colorado maintains museums and historical sites around the state. The agency also preserves and exhibits collections of historical significance. Most of the group's funding comes from state cash funds, including taxes on limited stakes gambling.
Auditors said 79 of History Colorado's 131 staffers had company-issued credit cards, but that who got them was not necessarily tied to the employee's responsibilities. Also, 47 percent of the official-function purchases were for $50 or less, and about 17 percent were for $15 or less. The audit found that the transactions included frequent purchases for single coffees or lunches.
Official functions are defined as meetings, conferences, meals, or other events hosted by the chief executive officer or representative of a state agency.
"I think that you've got a high bar to maintain and credit card abuse is something that you cannot tolerate in my opinion," Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial, told History Colorado officials during the audit presentation.
History Colorado officials responded to the audit by saying they're working to implement controls on employee credit-card use, including providing more training on what's appropriate.
"We are equally concerned about making sure there is no credit card abuse," said Ed Nichols, president and CEO of the organization. He added that they're "taking very aggressive measures" to fix the problem.
The audit also found that grant funding for historic preservation projects has dropped dramatically since 2003, mostly due to legislation that has diverted money for other things, including restoration of the state Capitol dome and construction costs for the new History Colorado Center.