Independent Ethics Comission

Elbert County reimbursed disgraced county commissioner for $1000 fine

Marianne Goodland (The Colorado Independent)-

The underlying lawsuit that brought the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission and Colorado Ethics Watch to the Colorado Supreme Court has taken another turn – one that will likely land an Elbert County Commissioner in more hot water.

According to documents obtained by The Colorado Independent, Elbert County reimbursed a county commissioner for a $1,000 fine levied against him for campaign finance violations. That appears to fly in the face of the judge’s order that originally assessed the fine.

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State Supreme Court weighs Colorado Ethics Commission’s secrecy

Marianne Goodland (The Colorado Independent)-

The Colorado Supreme Court now has two cases before it that could either affirm or weaken the authority of the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission to keep much of its work reviewing ethics complaints against public officials out of the public eye.

The first case is an appeal from former Secretary of State Scott Gessler over an ethics commission ruling that Gessler improperly used taxpayer money to attend a Republican Party function. The second case, from the commission itself, is a lawsuit against Colorado Ethics Watch. The commission has asked the court to uphold the panel’s right to dismiss frivolous complaints without further judicial review.

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

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Ethics Commission runs to Supreme Court in bid to avoid accountability

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.”

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Court Rules Ethics Watch Suit Against IEC May Proceed

Today, Judge A. Bruce Jones of the Denver District Court ruled that Ethics Watch’s suit for review of the Independent Ethics Commission’s decision to dismiss its complaint against Elbert County Commissioner Robert Rowland may proceed.

The Ethics Commission argued that its dismissal was not reviewable because it purportedly had “no legal effect” and because Ethics Watch allegedly suffered no harm from the dismissal.

The court dismissed the first argument as “Orwellian,” and as to the second, ruled that Ethics Watch suffered injury because no hearing was held on its complaint and because the Ethics in Government Amendment must be interpreted to authorize judicial review of dismissals of complaints by the IEC.

Order Denying IEC's Motion to Dismiss by Colorado Ethics Watch

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