A CBS News Colorado investigation has found Robert Gordanier, the mayor of the small Denver metro area town of Lakeside, has sold at least two town vehicles to his daughter at prices well below what the vehicles might have fetched on the open market. The mayor's daughter, who is also the Lakeside town clerk, then flipped the vehicles, making hefty profits according to the buyers.
"I am truly disgusted by it," said Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown.
In September 2021, his agency sold a low-mileage Ford Fusion to Lakeside to be used by the town's police department. The sale price was $5,000, far less than what it was worth.
"We were willing to help out our partners in Lakeside to make sure that they had adequate equipment to provide that law enforcement service to the community," said Brown.
But CBS News Colorado obtained records showing that just three months later, in December 2021, Gordanier signed a bill of sale selling the 2013 vehicle, which only had 36,114 miles on it to his daughter, Brenda Hamilton, the town clerk, for $1,000.
"It's sad and disturbing someone would take advantage of that situation," said Brown. "Ultimately we thought we were doing the right thing for the right reason and they wrecked it."
He said he had no idea the car had been sold to the mayor's daughter until he spoke with CBS News Colorado.
Brown said he would be wary in the future about giving deals to smaller agencies as what Lakeside did amounts to "completely deceptive tactics that are just really unacceptable."
A few months later in 2022, a man in Wyoming said he spotted the vehicle on Facebook marketplace, traveled to Colorado and apparently bought it from Brenda Hamilton. He said the purchase price was $12,000.
That wasn't the only questionable internal vehicle transaction between the mayor and his daughter. Records show that the town also owned a 2008 Chevy Tahoe. Tim Jackson, former President of the Colorado Auto Dealer Association, said on the open market, the vehicle was worth about $10,000, depending on its condition. Carfax reported the Tahoe was worth just under $8,000.
But CBS News Colorado found a bill of sale from September 2022 that showed Gordanier sold the town-owned vehicle to his daughter for $300. A man in Thornton then bought the SUV from Brenda Hamilton a few months later. He said he paid $7,000 cash for it and said it was a good deal and that the utility vehicle runs well with no problems.
When CBS News Colorado spoke to Gordanier about the internal auto sales, he confirmed his signature on the bills of sale but said he signed blank forms and let someone else fill in the sales prices and other details.
"I would imagine Brenda did," said Gordanier. "I signed the title and that was it." Asked who decided what the cars were worth, Gordanier said, "Had to be her, it wasn't me."
When questioned why he was selling town vehicles to his daughter for so little, Gordanier said, "She wanted to buy 'em and so I sold them. It was a lot easier just to do it and be done with it than having to advertise it or anything."
When Hamilton was approached at Lakeside's town offices by a CBS News Colorado crew, she quickly declined to answer questions on camera saying, "It's not a good hair day." She spoke from behind a closed door and denied personally reselling the town vehicles, denied buying the Ford Fusion for $1,000, and denied buying the Chevy Tahoe for $300 and said she couldn't remember other details about the vehicle transactions.
Asked about buying the Ford for $1,000 and reselling it, as documents show, Hamilton said, "I don't have any idea what you're talking about. I did not buy it for $1,000." With respect to the Chevy Tahoe, Hamilton said, "It was given to me," by the assistant police chief, even though her signed application for a title said she paid $300 for it.
Hamilton later said the documentation obtained by CBS News Colorado did not tell the full story, as she bought another vehicle, a Dodge Charger, with her own money for $9,500 and gave it to the town, minimizing her profit on the sale of the Ford Fusion.
Attorneys representing Hamilton and her father, Gordanier, said they could not comment as there is an ongoing investigation.
Lakeside only covers 2/10 of a square mile on Denver's western border. Census figures say the town has only 17 residents. But thanks to numerous retail businesses and an amusement park, the town has an annual budget of about $2.5 million.
Jim Pelloni, who served as the town's assistant police chief for less than a year, said part of the reason he left earlier this year was due to nepotism. While Gordanier has been Mayor of Lakeside for decades, his daughter was only hired in recent years. Brenda Hamilton serves as town clerk, managing much of the town's business. Her job application notes that her previous experience was as a "self-employed massage therapist." Federal records show she and her husband filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection three times. After she was hired, the town hired her mother to do part-time work, hired a cousin for a full-time job and paid her husband nearly $50,000 in 2022 for remodeling work on town facilities.
"It was clearly nepotism," said Pelloni. "They overlooked what each other was doing."
"The government I'm used to working for plays by the rules and they're held accountable."
Asked why the town was hiring so many of his family members, Gordanier responded, "It's convenient for me."
He conceded it was not really fair to only hire family members when other members of the public might want those jobs.
Tim Flynn, town attorney for Lakeside, issued a written statement, "This matter is the subject of an ongoing investigation initiated by the Board of Trustees for the Town of Lakeside. Until the investigation is complete, the Town has no further comment."
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