Independent Ethics Comission

Colorado Supreme Court to hear case challenging state ethics commission’s role

Joey Bunch (Denver Post)- The Colorado Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear issues in a 2013 ethics case involving then-Secretary of State Scott Gessler, marking the first time the high court has looked at how the state Independent Ethics Commission operates since it was created after voters passed Amendment 41 in 2006.

The five-member panel found Gessler violated the public trust when he used $1,278.90 from his office discretionary fund to attend a Republican lawyer’s event in Florida. He extended the trip to attend the Republican National Convention.

Click here to read the full story in the Denver Post.

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Lawmakers fail to reform Colorado’s Ethics Commission

Marianne Goodland (Colorado Independent)- The Republican-controlled Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee shot down a bill Monday that would have begun to reform Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission.

The bill was supported by the state’s Republican Attorney General and Secretary of State.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Independent.

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Colorado Supreme Court
Closing the Door on Judicial Review

Hannah Garcia (Law Week Colorado)- split Colorado Supreme Court exercised a somewhat rarely used power to end a dispute between a watchdog group and the state’s Independent Ethics Commission in an April 25 opinion.

One of the main questions the case posits deals with the definition of a “final action.” In essence, once the IEC dismisses a case as frivolous, there is no avenue for appeal after the state’s highest court settled the matter through the “extraordinary remedy” of Colorado Appellate Rule 21. Those petitioners for review can bypass the Colorado Court of Appeals and typically have no oral argument.

Click here to read the full story in Law Week Colorado.

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Court: Ethics Commission’s frivolous complaint rulings are final

Marianne Goodland (Colorado Independent) — Once Colorado’s secretive Independent Ethics Commission dismisses a complaint as frivolous, it cannot be appealed to any higher court.

That’s the decision the Colorado Supreme Court made today on a 4-3 ruling.

The case involved Colorado Ethics Watch, which filed an an ethics complaint against an Elbert County commissioner, which the Ethics Commission dubbed frivolous.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Independent.

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CO Supreme Court ends Rowland case

Today, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that decisions of the Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) to dismiss a complaint as frivolous are not subject to judicial review. The ruling overturned a Denver District Court judge’s determination that a suit by Ethics Watch challenging the dismissal of a complaint against Elbert County Commissioner Robert Rowland, for voting to spend county funds on an appeal of a campaign finance award against him personally, could go forward. The Court ruled that a state statute authorizing judicial review of “any final action” by the IEC on a complaint could not constitutionally reach decisions by the IEC not to proceed on a complaint because the legislature does not have power to enact such a statute and because the IEC is barred from disclosing a complaint ruled frivolous even to a court.

In dissent, Justice Richard Gabriel stated that “the majority’s opinion undermines a primary purpose of the IEC, namely, to preserve public confidence in government.”

Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro issued the following statement: “Obviously we are disappointed with today’s decision. Notably, the Supreme Court did not rule that the IEC was correct to dismiss our complaint; they merely held that the action was beyond judicial review. The Supreme Court has granted sweeping power to the IEC; we can only hope the Commission uses this power wisely.”Colorado Supreme Court

Read the decision here: In re Colorado Ethics Watch v. Independent Ethics Commission

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Ethics Watch Comments on IEC Jurisdiction Over Home Rule Cities

Yesterday, Ethics Watch Senior Counsel Peg Perl addressed the Independent Ethics Commission as part of the Commission’s deliberations over its own jurisdiction over home rule cities. Ethics Watch also submitted two rounds of written comments in response to the Commission’s call for comments from the public.

Section 7 of Article XXIX of the Colorado Constitution provides that home rule jurisdictions are not subject to Commission jurisdiction if they “have adopted charters, ordinances, or resolutions that address the matters covered by this article.” Home rule jurisdictions are mostly cities, including Denver, Colorado Springs, and Aurora, that have adopted city charters that allow them to enact their own laws on matters that would otherwise be governed by state law.

The issue arose due to a request for advisory opinion by a state employee who is also an elected official of the City of Aurora who asked the Commission to advise her that she remains subject to state ethics laws despite her elected position with the City. The request gave the Commission insight about the larger questions about the interaction of home rule with Article XXIX.

Ethics Watch’s view is that Section 7 requires a home rule jurisdiction to have its own ethics board and some law restricting gifts, because those topics are covered in Article XXIX. Other groups also filed written comments or testified at the meeting. The Commission has collected written comments at this link.

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Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission resists reform

Marianne Goodland (The Colorado Independent)- A bill to reform Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission outraged its Chair Bill Leone, who led the commission in taking a hard line on the measure that would create policies to address conflicts of interest between commissioners and the officials the body holds accountable.

The commission’s move to resist new regulations comes in the wake of a scathing review of its work by the state auditor. Leone said the audit “stung.”

Click here to read the full story in The Colorado Independent.

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Ethics Commission reform survives Republican ‘no’ votes

Marianne Goodland (The Colorado Independent)- A bill to clean up the state Independent Ethics Commission narrowly passed its first committee hearing Tuesday, despite opposition from Republicans and commission chair Bill Leone.

Leone testified he hadn’t seen the bill until recently and the commission had never discussed it publicly. That claim raised the hackles of the commission’s critics.

Click here to read the full story in The Colorado Independent.

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Audit: Colorado ethics commission rarely helps those filing complaints

Joey Bunch (Denver Post)-

The Colorado legislature is considering giving more staffing, clearer rules and more teeth to the state Independent Ethics Commission.

A state audit released Tuesday morning faulted the commission for poorly communicating which public officials it can hear complaints about and the narrow punishment it can hand out.


Click here to read the full story in the Denver Post.

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Audit: Colorado’s Ethics Commission has questionable ethics

Marianne Goodland (The Colorado Independent)-

Sloppy record keeping. Failure to follow the state’s open meetings and open records laws. Baffling instructions to anyone brave enough to file a complaint.

Those are a few of the charges the state’s auditor lobbed at Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission, the body that oversees the state’s ethics laws.

Click here to read the full story in The Colorado Independent.

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