Late Friday afternoon, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (“IEC”) asked the Colorado Supreme Court to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit filed by Ethics Watch in May for judicial review of the IEC’s 3-2 decision to dismiss a complaint, filed by Ethics Watch, asking whether Elbert County Commissioner Robert Rowland violated ethical standards of conduct when he cast the deciding vote to authorize the county to pay for an appeal of a campaign finance award against himself personally. The extraordinary petition asks the Supreme Court to hold that IEC decisions to dismiss complaints without a hearing cannot be reviewed by any court.
The IEC’s argument is based on the constitutional provision stating that complaints may be dismissed without a hearing only if they are frivolous, and frivolous complaints must be maintained as confidential. The IEC maintains that this means it may not disclose a dismissed complaint even to a court. Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones rejected the IEC’s argument and ruled that Ethics Watch’s suit may go forward. Ethics Watch had argued that a routine confidentiality order would address the IEC’s concerns.
“We are at a loss to understand why the IEC wants to make a Supreme Court case out of a simple failure to proceed on a case that two of the five commissioners thought deserved a hearing,” said Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch. “Nevertheless, we will fight to make sure the Ethics Commission does the job it was established to do, even if that means going to the Colorado Supreme Court.”