(July 28, 2020) - The Office of the State Auditor (OSA) today released a legislative audit of the Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB), a stautory board that is supported by staff in the Colorado Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Justice.
The audit recommended five primary areas for improvement:
The SOMB needs to publish citations of the evidence that the board consulted for each portion of its Standards and Guidelines for the treatment, monitoring, and management of sex offenders and juveniles who have committed sexual offenses - and provide explanations for the instances where evidence was lacking or not considered.
The board’s Application Review Committee needs to better document the steps that they take in reviewing and approving applicants for the list of approved treatment providers, and needs to find a way to check references for new providers in a field where it is not generally possible for a new applicant to have employment experience due to the prerequisite to be an approved provider in order to practice. The committee also needs to better document when its members recuse themselves from voting to approve applicants who are associated with the member’s own company or agency.
The board should improve the way it handles complaints against approved treatment providers by communicating clarity around what is required for a complete complaint, providing an anonymous reporting option, informing and involving complainants in the process, and better documenting the rationale behind decisions to dismiss complaints against providers without further investigation.
The board needs to obtain written legal clarity from the Attorney General’s office on the perceived conflict of interest created by having a significant portion of its seats filled by approved providers -- as required by statute -- who are considering standards and guidelines that affect their profession. The board voting record needs to provide more detail when members abstain from voting due to a real or perceived conflict of interest.
The board needs to address the revenue and balance of the Sex Offender Surcharge Fund to ensure that the agencies that receive the funds are able to effectively put them to the best use and achieve the greatest efficiency with taxpayer dollars.
In response to the legislative audit, the department released this statement:
“The Colorado Department of Public Safety and the Sex Offender Management Board thank the OSA and the Legislative Audit Committee for their work on the SOMB audit. The Department and the SOMB remain committed to the mission of providing for community safety and the protection of victims by monitoring and rehabilitating those convicted of sexual crimes. The SOMB is working with the CDPS Compliance and Professional Standards Office, which is the CDPS internal auditing operation, to provide accountability for implementing the recommendations of the audit. We believe that we can successfully address the vast majority of recommendations relatively quickly through improved documentation and communication.
The SOMB has always taken seriously its statutory mandate to ensure the Standards and Guidelines are supported by evidence, and does a thorough review of all the literature prior to each revision. The SOMB has historically provided citations for all factual statements in the Standards and Guidelines, and agrees with the OSA’s recommendation to make all supporting research broadly available for stakeholder review.
The SOMB has implemented a rigorous and transparent process to ensure that all policy decisions are made in an objective and unbiased manner given the impact these decisions have on the safety and well-being of the residents of Colorado. In 2018 the SOMB commissioned an independent, third-party external evaluation of its decision-making process, including conflict of interest. The evaluator provided results and recommendations in 2019, and the board immediately updated the SOMB bylaws and conflict of interest policy based on those recommendations. The Department and the SOMB have already requested a written legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office per the OSA recommendation and are committed to making any additional needed adjustments.
Colorado Statute (16-11.7-109 (1) (a)) declares that the SOMB is ‘one of Colorado’s most important resources’ and the recent 2019 Sunset Review of the SOMB concluded, ‘The SOMB and the program created under the Act are necessary to protect the Colorado public’s health, safety, and welfare.’ The Department and the SOMB work diligently on behalf of the people of Colorado to maintain the public trust and protect the most vulnerable, including children, by overseeing a statewide system that holds those who commit sexual offenses accountable for their actions and implements evidence-based safeguards to protect victims and potential victims.”
You can view the full audit on the OSA website.