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Transparency

Ethics Watch Reveals Extent Of Last-Minute Outside Spending In Colorado Election

Approximately one-third of all the outside spending on Colorado state candidate elections happened between October 24, when polls opened, and Election Day, according to a review of public records conducted by Colorado Ethics Watch.

Under Colorado law, outside groups that make independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates during the last days before a primary or general election must file reports of their spending within 48 hours. During the rest of the year, independent expenditures are disclosed in reports filed on a calendar that varies depending on how close it is to an election. By reviewing these reports, Ethics Watch was able to determine that approximately $11.5 million was spent on disclosed independent expenditures on Colorado state and local races during 2016. Of this total, just over $3.7 million was spent while polls were open.

Nearly a million dollars, or eight percent of all independent expenditures during 2016 occurred on a single day, October 28. This spending spike was largely due to a $439,855 expenditure made by a group called Colorado Safety & Justice, which in turn had just received a $420,000 donation from businessman George Soros. The expenditure was made to support Jake Lilly, a candidate for District Attorney in the First Judicial District (Jefferson and Gilpin Counties).

2016-independent-expenditures-graphic

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Denver lobbyists are reporting few expenses

Mike McKibbin (Colorado Statesman) – Monthly lobbyist financial reports required by the City and County of Denver, designed to help the public know who is lobbying City Council members on what issues, are commonly submitted with no reported expenditures, a review of the documents by the The Colorado Statesman has found.

While no wrongdoing or rules violations are thought to have occurred, the city ordinance that regulates lobbyists by requiring registration and the reports does not identify specific oversight. Like many other areas of municipal and state regulations, it is basically a self-reporting arrangement that is only investigated upon complaint, according to Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell.

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Colorado Statesman.

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Ethics Watch Supports Proposed Transparency Reforms in Denver

This week, Ethics Watch Senior Counsel Peg Perl presented public comment at the Denver City Council Finance and Governance Committee in favor of two transparency bills sponsored by Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson. Colorado Common Cause also spoke in support and both groups were included in stakeholders consulted by the Clerk during the development of the bills.

The first bill would transition financial and gift disclosures filed by Denver City Officials into a more efficient electronic filing system, require annual financial reports to be filed every January for the prior year (instead of August), and require City Officials to file gift reports quarterly, like state officials. Quarterly gift reports would be proactively published on the Clerk’s website for public viewing each quarter, and annual financial reports would remain public records subject to disclosure upon request. The reform bill would also eliminate a provision requiring the Clerk to keep a log of public requests for viewing of these reports and to notify a City Official whenever a citizen viewed their reports.

The second bill streamlines and enhances transparency for lobbyist reports filed by those who lobby Denver City Officials. The reforms would move lobbyist reporting from a paper system to electronic filing and the Clerk would post on the City website both lobbyist registrations and bimonthly lobbyist reports. The bill also clarifies the details required to be reported by a lobbyist with regard to the clients they serve and gifts provided to City Officials for purposes of lobbying.

After numerous questions, but general support from City Council members on the committee, the Clerk will be making revisions to the bill. Video of this week’s committee meeting is available for viewing here (public comment begins around the 38 minute mark). The committee stated that it intends to take action on the revised bills in November. Ethics Watch believes these reforms would increase transparency in Denver City Government and enhance citizen trust in their local leaders.

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Tribune opinion: It’s important for schools to post minutes

Greeley Tribune Editorial Board (Greeley Tribune)- There’s a 2-year-old state law that requires Colorado school districts to post meeting minutes within 10 days of the minutes being approved.

Colorado Ethics Watch, a left-leaning research and advocacy nonprofit, has done some research to see how Colorado’s schools are doing with the relatively new mandate. The results weren’t great for the state with less than 60 percent of the districts in compliance.

Click here to read the full story in the Greeley Tribune.

Click here to read the full report by Colorado Ethics Watch.

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Report 1 In 4 Colorado School Districts Violate Transparency Law

Mike Lamp (Colorado Public Radio)- Colorado Ethics Watch wants more of the state’s school districts to post minutes of their board meetings online – as a state law requires.

In a new report, the watchdog group looked at more than 170 districts through the first half of this year. It estimates about a quarter of Colorado districts are in violation of a 2014 school transparency law that says districts have to post meeting minutes if they have a website.

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Public Radio.

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Many Colorado School Districts Violate Transparency Law

Jonathan Baker (High Plains Public Radio)- Almost half of Colorado school districts are not complying with a state transparency law, reports The Colorado Independent.

The watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch has found that 43 percent of Colorado’s school districts are not complying with a law requiring school boards to post minutes of their meetings in a timely manner.

Click here to read the full story in High Plains Public Radio.

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One in four Colorado school districts are violating state transparency law

Kelsey Ray (Colorado Independent)- Only 57 percent of Colorado school districts fully comply with a state transparency law, independent watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch has found.

The group examined the websites of 177 Colorado school boards between January and July 2016 to see how many were posting minutes of their school board meetings in a timely manner, as is required by law. That law, which went into effect in June 2014, says school boards must post the minutes within 10 days of approving them.

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

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Report: Weld County school districts fail to comply with transparency law

Tyler Silvy (Greeley Tribune)- More than 40 percent of Colorado school districts leave their residents out of the loop and appear to be in violation of a 2-year-old state law, according to an investigation by Colorado Ethics Watch, a left-leaning research and advocacy nonprofit.

The group researched 177 Colorado school districts, looking at school board websites to see if the boards were in compliance with a 2014 law that requires districts to post meeting minutes within 10 days of those minutes being approved, according to Colorado Ethics Watch.

Click here to read the full story in the Greeley Tribune.

Click here to read Colorado Ethics Watch report on school board minutes.

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57% of Colorado School Districts In Full Compliance With New Law

Colorado Ethics Watch has researched 177 Colorado school board websites to determine compliance with Senate Bill 14-182 and found that only 57% of school districts are clearly in compliance with the new law.

In June 2014, the law went into effect requiring school boards to post minutes of their meetings within 10 days of approving those minutes. While government entities in Colorado are generally expected to maintain meeting minutes as public documents, this was the first law that specifically directed public entities to post those minutes online.

To determine compliance with the posting requirements, Ethics Watch visited 177 Colorado school board websites to look for posted minutes from the period January through July, 2016. Ethics Watch discovered that 101 school districts (57% of the total) appear to be in full compliance with the posting requirement. These included large districts such as Denver Public Schools and Colorado Springs District 11 but also included numerous very small school districts.

Another 42 school districts, 24% of the total, appear to be out of compliance with the new law because the website reflects that meetings took place during the relevant time period, but minutes of those meetings are not posted on the website. The remaining 34 school districts (19% of the total), mostly very small districts, posted no information about meetings at all, perhaps indicating that no meetings were held during the relevant time period or that these districts may be out of compliance as well.

“We’re pleased that so many school districts are in full compliance, but the percentage is still too low,” said Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch.  “School board business is of great interest to those living and sending their children to school in that district, and those citizens have a right to easily access information about the decisions made by their elected representatives.”

The 101 school districts that appear to be in compliance include:

Academy 20 Dolores RE-4a Lamar RE-2 Salida R-32
Adams County 14 Douglas County RE-1 Lewis-Palmer 38 Sargent RE-33J
Adams-Arapahoe 28J Durango 9-R Limon Public Schools School District 27J
Akron R-1 Eagle County RE 50 Littleton 6 South Conejos RE-10
Alamosa RE-11J East Grand 2 Lone Star 101 South Routt RE 3
Archuleta County 50 JT East Otero R-1 Mancos RE-6 Springfield RE-4
Aspen 1 Edison 54 JT Mapleton 1 St Vrain Valley RE 1J
Bennet 29J Elbert 200 Meeker RE1 Steamboat Springs RE-2
Big Sandy 100J Elizabeth C-1 Miami/Yoder 60JT Strasburg 31J
Boulder Valley RE 2 Falcon 49 Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 Stratton R-4
Branson RE 82 Fowler R-4J Montrose County RE-1J Summit RE-1
Briggsdale RE-10 Garfield RE-2 North Park R-1 Swink 33
Buena Vista R-31 Gilpin County RE-1 Norwood R-2J Telluride R-1
Burlington RE-6J Granada RE-1 Park (Estes Park) R-3 Thompson R-2J
Calhan RJ-1 Greeley 6 Peyton 23 JT Valley RE-1
Canon City RE-1 Gunnison Watershed RE1J Plateau RE-5 Walsh RE-1
Cherry Creek 5 Hanover 28 Platte Canyon 1 Weld County RE-1
Cheyenne Mountain 12 Hayden RE-1 Platte Valley RE-7 Weld County School District RE-3J
Clear Creek RE-1 Hindsdale county RE-1 Poudre R-1 West End RE-2
Colorado Springs 11 Huerfano RE-1 Prairie RE-11 West Grand 1-JT
Cotopaxi RE-3 Ignacio 11 JT Primero Reorganized 2 Westminster Public Schools
Cripple Creek-Victor RE-1-J Jefferson County R-1 Pueblo County 70 Widefield 3
Crowley Creek RE-1-J Johnstown-Miliken RE-5J Rangely RE-4 Wiggins RE-50(J)
Delta County 50(J) Kiowa C-2 Ridgway R-2 Wiley RE-13 JT
Denver County 1 La Veta Roaring Fork RE-1 Windsor RE-4
Woodland Park RE-2
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Now you can watch Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission in action

Jason Salzman (Colorado Times-Recorder) –

After receiving a state grant to broadcast its meetings live over the internet, as well as a lessson (See it here.) from Colorado Ethics Watch on how easy it is to broadcast on the internet, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission has made its meetings open to the public via video livestream.

Watch the Commission’s August 10 meeting here.

Click here to read the rest of the story at the Colorado Times-Recorder.

 

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