Thursday, May 16, 2002
Steamboat Springs Former Deputy District Attorney Charles Feldmann advanced himself $3,300 in federal drug money so that he and his wife could attend a conference in San Francisco, according to an investigation summary filed by Fifth Judicial District Attorney Michael Goodbee.
Goodbee's report says Feldmann gave himself the advance two months before the trip in May 2001, even though the federal Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area approved only $2,200 in expenses for the five-day conference.
Other findings in Goodbee's report, which was made public Thursday:
n Feldmann and his wife stayed at the Ritz Carlton at a rate of $199 per night even though the conference was at the Holiday Inn at a rate of $139 per night.
n Feldmann acknowledged that he didn't attend all of the seminars, and credit-card receipts show that he and his wife went shopping one afternoon and on a tour of the California Wine Country on another day of the conference.
n Feldmann requested $975 in mileage to drive to San Francisco, and HIDTA approved $500. But Feldmann instead purchased two airplane tickets for a total cost of $356.
The trip ultimately cost Feldmann his job with the District Attorney's Office. After meeting with 14th Judicial District Attorney Paul McLimans about the trip and his handling of the drug task force expense fund, Feldmann resigned May 12, 2001, and reimbursed the office $1,658.
In his summary, Goodbee said he decided not to file charges against Feldmann because he could not disprove Feldmann's claim that it was always his intent to settle his expenses within 30 days of his return and reimburse the office for any money owed.
"I followed the written policy and procedures to the letter," said Feldmann, who accused McLimans of launching the investigation in an effort to damage Feldmann politically.
Feldmann said he made no secret of his desire to seek the office of district attorney while he was a prosecutor under McLimans.
McLimans said Feldmann's use of the expense fund put his office in a difficult position, and that Feldmann's actions on the San Francisco trip made his resignation necessary. McLimans said he had no choice but to seek an outside probe into the matter.
Goodbee, appointed by Routt County Judge James Garrecht to examine the case, filed his summary this week after a yearlong investigation. Goodbee said in the summary there is sufficient evidence to file charges of theft, embezzlement and false swearing, but insufficient evidence to prove the charges.
Feldmann attended the San Francisco seminar between April 26 and May 3, 2001, as part of his role as the project director for the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team.
As the project director, Feldmann supervised the task force, which focuses on drug investigations.
The task force is funded by local law enforcement agencies and federal funds, including those overseen by the Rocky Mountain HIDTA.
Feldmann estimated it would cost him $3,300 for the San Francisco trip and using a GRAMNET expense fund, wrote a check to himself for that amount two months in advance of the seminar. Feldmann's estimate included $975 in mileage, $1,554 for lodging at the Ritz Carlton and a $46 daily per diem for nine days four days travel time by car and five days at the seminar. After reviewing the estimate, HIDTA approved $2,200 for the trip.
McLimans became concerned about Feldmann's trip after he discovered his deputy would be flying instead of driving. "I was quite concerned that Charles may have made some misinterpretations which resulted in a rather large profit in connection with the San Francisco conference," McLimans said.
Feldmann said he was planning to drive, but his plans changed because his supervisor in Steamboat Springs, Kerry St. James, would not give him time off to drive.
"I had no choice but to fly," Feldmann said.
McLimans said Feldmann told him he was staying at the Holiday Inn in San Francisco for $199 per night. But McLimans found out later the cost of a room at the Holiday Inn during the seminar was $139 a night.
Feldmann said he stayed at the Ritz Carlton as a treat for him and his wife. Feldmann said he did not reveal where he was staying to avoid ribbing from his colleagues.
McLimans said he also suspected Feldmann did not attend a majority of the seminar. McLimans said he left messages with organizers for Feldmann to give him a call, but that he never received a call from Feldmann. During some seminar meetings, organizers called out Feldmann's name so the message could be relayed to him. He was never given the message.
Feldmann said he attended "65 to 75 percent" of the seminar. "I absolutely attended the seminar," he said. "Did I attend every conference? Absolutely not."
Feldmann said he always intended to reconcile the account after the trip, and that federal guidelines give him 30 days to do so.
Contacted Thursday while on vacation, McLimans said he requested an independent investigation because it would have been unethical not to. He said Feldmann's political ambitions had no influence on the decision.
McLimans said he gave Feldmann a $6,000 raise six months prior to his departure and offered him the chief deputy district attorney position in his Grand County office.
Feldmann declined because he did not want to move from Steamboat Springs.
"I tried to enhance his opportunity to succeed me," McLimans said. "You don't offer promotions or substantial pay raises to folks you are trying to get rid of."
McLimans noted term limits prevent him from seeking a fourth term in office in 2004. "I have said all along this will be my last term," he said.
McLimans said he considered Feldmann a "friend" during the five years Feldmann worked for him.
"This has been a very emotional situation for Charles and a very emotional situation for me," he said. "This is one of the most gut-wrenching things I have had to do."