May 14, 2010 1:22 PM by James Jarman
News First 5 is uncovering even more allegations against a former state fair executive. It involves state money and a close friend of the executive.
The friend has also been indicted by a grand jury in a separate case - involving arson. Michael Clower's arson trial is scheduled for August.
Right now, News First 5 wants to know if he received the equivalent of roughly $10,000 in state money from his friend, former state fair exec Janelle Gonzales.
NF5 obtained a state contract that shows no money was paid to rent out a 42,000 square foot state fair building for 4 days to sell fireworks. The building rents for $1,750 a day, with a $500 deposit, but not for Michael Clower and his business partners. Clower's friend, Gonzales, wrote up the contract and gave them use of the facility for free.
We also obtained a purchase order in which Gonzales paid Clower $2,000 in public money to rent a flatbed trailer for 2 days at the fair. We found you can rent the same type of trailer, and larger ones, for $100 a day.
State Fair Manager Chris Wiseman says the fair didn't know about these new allegations when they fired her earlier this year. Wiseman says he trusted Gonzales completely, and has known her for 13 years. "We got to know each other when she and I both worked for governor Roy Romer," he said.
Wiseman says the incidents we asked him about are separate from the original complaints brought to him by another state fair employee. He says the Clower-Gonzales deals did not get his approval and were not appropriate.
Gonzales did not return News First 5's call for an interview.
Clower will not agree to an on camera interview, but did send us this written response:
"I have never received special treatment from Janelle Gonzales or any other employee of the Colorado State Fair. Concerning the rental of the trailer for 4 days, I was called by Janelle and did rent it to the Colorado State Fair. Concerning the rental of the Ag Palace, the written agreement dated 3/9/09 was part of a Colorado State Fair sponsorship. At no time was I aware of any wrong doing within the management of the Colorado State Fair.
Now and in the future, I have no further comments regarding any of the issues, problems or investigations that involve the Colorado State Fair. Any further comments would NOT be in the best interest of our Community, the Colorado State Fair, or any on-going investigations that may arise."
News First 5 now has copies of the criminal indictment against a former state fair executive.
Janelle Gonzales is accused of stealing $9,486.79 from a safe at the state fair accounting office, as well as using a state procurement card to make purchases for herself.
Some of the purchases include gasoline, groceries and paying her own utility bill.
The indictment also alleges she submitted false travel vouchers and received reimbursement for money spent on meetings she never attended, and stole rental fees that were paid to the fair for events throughout the year.
State Fair Manager Chris Wiseman tells News First 5, Gonzales was a trusted state fair executive who had authority over accounts,contracts and purchase orders. Wiseman first met Gonzales when the 2 of them worked for Governor Roy Romer 13 years ago.
He says he trusted her completely. The state has now tightened it's financial controls and procedures, which means Wiseman will now sign off on all contracts, something Gonzales was allowed to do herself in some instances.
A former State Fair employee has just been indicted on 5 felony counts, including theft and embezzlement.
A Pueblo judge signed the 5 count indictment against Janelle Gonzales this morning. She's accused of illegally taking state fair money for her own use.
Gonzales was a high ranking state fair employee with access to accounts and contracts. She was fired earlier this year after an internal investigation. She's appealing her firing, and it's unclear if this indictment what, if anything, the indictment might mean for her appeal.
News First 5 Investigative Reporter James Jarman has received tips accusing Gonzales of alleged wrongdoing that are separate from the indictment.
We will have much more on all of this for you later tonight News First 5 and of course here on newsfirst5.com.