DENVER (CBS4) - Colorado's state-managed unclaimed property website, also known as The Great Colorado Payback, blocked nearly 100 Coloradans' names from being searched for an undetermined amount of time. The list of names blocked ranges from John Elway to former Gov. Bill Ritter and Gov. Bill Owens and dozens of current and former state legislators, according to a CBS4 Investigation.
That means all those Coloradans, who might have had unclaimed money or property held by the state treasury as part of the unclaimed property program, would not have been able to find their money or property, since the state website incorrectly returned no results when their names were entered into the database.
Dave Young, the current Colorado Treasurer, told CBS4, "I think it is a bit surprising and we are working to understand why this happened."
Young said since he took office in January 2019, neither he nor his staff have blocked any search terms or names on the website. In fact since it came to his attention, Young said he has instructed the website vendor to "unblock" nearly 300 search terms.
"Certainly if a term is blocked, that's going to affect someone's ability to search," Young said. "There may very well be property being held by the state treasury, but the website is saying you have no property here, and that's a wrong conclusion."
CBS4 obtained the list of 281 names and terms that had been blocked from showing up in searches of the website. They included past and present state lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, along with businessman Pete Coors, former state treasurer Mike Coffman (who is currently Aurora's mayor), former Sen. Cory Gardner along with the Denver Post, King Soopers, Walmart and Taco Bell.
"We still have to have a deeper understanding of how these terms were blocked inside of the vendor's software," Young said.
Young says he has instructed his staff to contact employees from previous administrations to see who might have sought to have the names blocked and when it occurred. Young said he simply did not know yet what happened or why.
"We're trying to figure this out," Young said.
Among the names on the list of blocked search terms was Frank McNulty, a Republican, who served in the legislature from 2006 through 2012, and was Speaker of the Colorado House beginning in 2010.
McNulty said he didn't think he had ever searched the site until being contacted by CBS4, but said "I am curious to know why my name and others were blocked from being able to search for money that is rightly ours."
Since his name is now searchable, the website shows at least two entries McNulty indicated were his unclaimed money.
"It's not the dollar amount that matters, it's the principal that somebody in state government blocked me from being able to search for money that's owed to me. That's a real problem," McNulty said. "I'm not happy about it."
McNulty believes the blocking was intentional.
"It's totally shady," McNulty said. "Somebody did something purposefully to harm their fellow Coloradans. There needs to be an investigation of what happened here, and the people who did this need to have an appropriate explanation for why they blocked our names, or be accountable for what they did, because I suspect what they did wasn't right."
Ron Lizzi, who lives in Connecticut, scours state payback websites as something of a hobby.
"That's the people's money and they can't get it," said Lizzi.
He tells CBS4 he noticed numerous terms like "school," "college," and other common terms seemed to be blocked on the Colorado website and were not returning any results.
"The state is hiding thousands of properties that are probably worth over a million, potentially millions of dollars and the owners can't find them," said Lizzi. "This is one way people get tricked. They believe the state is wanting to return properties, they trust the website, but they shouldn't."
Coffman, who served as Colorado's treasurer from 1998 to 2005, said he was shocked to learn his name had been blocked on the website.
"I don't have any idea why it would be blocked," said Coffman. "The entire purpose of the website is to give the public access to their information."
He said he can't imagine a "credible explanation" for why so many names and terms were blocked. Coffman told CBS4 when he was state treasurer, no names or terms were blocked.
Young, the current state treasurer, said he was uncertain how long it would take to determine what had happened. But he encouraged Coloradans to search the website Great Colorado Payback to see if they have unclaimed money or property.
McNulty wants to see a more formal investigation launched by the Denver district attorney and the state legislature's audit committee.
"I do suspect this is unethical and possibly illegal," offered McNulty. "Blocking people from searching a state database that is open to everyone. That has to have consequences."
Here is the list CBS4 obtained of names and terms that cannot be searched on the website:
A T & T
DENVER & RIO
FRANGAS K JERRY
GREAT WEST LIFE
LEVEL 3 COMMUNICATIONS
M L P F S
PRINCIPAL LIFE INSURANCE
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE
TO THE ESTATE
UNIV OF COLORADO
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