2017 IEC Notes



January 23, 2017

The IEC holds its first monthly meeting of 2017 with all five commissioners present. After administrative updates from the Executive Director, the commissioners discuss press coverage of the recently-issued Position Statement 16-01 (home rule ethics codes). The Commission then discusses and suggests a number of revisions to a draft response to the advisory request 15-12 (Aurora City Council), which prompted the year-long deliberation over home rule ethics codes. After further changes, the IEC votes 5-0 to approve Advisory Opinion 15-12 which states that a state employee is governed by Art. XXIX at all times regardless of what the Aurora city ethics rules might permit for city councilpersons. The opinion avoids applying the new Position Statement 16-01 standards to Aurora’s city ethics rules and says that issue does not need to be addressed to answer the advisory request.

The IEC holds a number of initial votes on whether certain filed complaints are frivolous or should be subject to a Commission investigation. Commissioners voted 5-0 that Complaint 16-13 (Glendale City Council) was not frivolous and directed staff to start an investigation, including application of Position Statement 16-01 to this home rule city with its own ethics rules. The IEC updates on Complaint 16-20 (Rep. Ransom) that the respondent response is due March 24 and then the investigation will proceed and a hearing will be scheduled. Five other complaints were voted frivolous by Commissioners and kept confidential.

March 6, 2017

The Commissioners start the IEC monthly meeting with a staff report from the Executive Director who reports that the live streaming audio is not functioning despite testing prior to the meeting. After brief budget updates, the ED reminds Commissioners that officer elections will occur at the April 3 meeting. The IEC discusses a submitted Advisory Request 17-02 from Jefferson County officials regarding possible corporate sponsors for a county budget and finance conference. The requestor answers questions from Commissioners and then agrees to return with a revised request with specific proposals before the IEC issues a written opinion. The IEC also asks questions of Rep. Jonathan Singer, the requestor of Advisory Request 17-03 regarding government meeting space paid by a third party. Commissioners give informal guidance that there is no ethical problem raised by Rep. Singer attending as a moderator at an event given by, and paid for by, an outside citizen group. The IEC is still drafting a written response to the bigger question asked regarding town halls in space paid by non-governmental sources.

The IEC then considers a Draft Position Statement which would detail implementation of Position Statement 16-01 regarding home rule ethics codes. Commissioners debate whether to implement a cure period or apply the standards retroactively and how complaints will be processed under the new position statement standards. The Commission decides to publish the draft for public comment and discuss further at the April 3 meeting. The IEC also considers a Draft Position Statement regarding the determination of when a complaint is frivolous under IEC Rules, but Commissioners do not move forward with public comment or further consideration of that proposal at this time.

The IEC considers two complaints in executive session, Complaint 16-02 continues to be held for further consideration without any frivolous vote, while the other was dismissed as frivolous and outside IEC jurisdiction. The Commissioners end the session with a lengthy closed executive session regarding “Legal Updates and Training from the Office of the Attorney General”.

March 27, 2017

Colorado Ethics Watch files public comments in response to the Draft Position Statement implementing Position Statement 16-01. Ethics_Watch_2017-03-27

April 3, 2017

The Commission starts its monthly meeting with a staff report regarding progress on the budget process and the state audit report. IEC Commissioners will discuss resolution of records retention and similar state archives issues at the next meeting. The IEC discusses and approves Advisory Opinion 17-03 concerning government meeting spaces paid by a third party and Advisory Opinion 17-04 regarding a county commissioner concurrently serving as a board member for a regional transportation authority. Commissioners then discussed the Draft Position Statement implementing Position Statement 16-01 and public comments received on the proposal, including from Ethics_Watch_2017-03-27. At this point, the IEC decided to take no action with regard to the draft, but wait and see how complaints and advisory opinions regarding home rule ethics codes arise and are handled. The Commission also briefly discussed scheduling for the investigation on Complaint 16-20 (Ransom). The meeting concluded with annual election of officers: Chair Matt Smith and Vice-Chair April Jones.

May 5, 2017

The monthly meeting of the IEC starts with proposal and approval of a new Document Retention Schedule in response to concerns raised by the Legislative Audit. The Commission’s Executive Director also summarized various legislation that was considered this session of interest to the IEC, and announced that Commissioner Bill Leone has been reappointed to a second term by the Colorado Senate, which will expire in June 2021. Commissioner Bob Bacon’s term also expires June 2017 and Governor Hickenlooper will appoint his successor. Upon advice of the IEC’s Department of Law attorney, the Commission then discussed and adopted a revised version of Advisory Opinion 17-03 (Third party paying for government meetings) changing some analysis, but not the ultimate conclusions of of the opinion. The Commission then moved into executive session for legal updates from the Attorney General’s office and consideration of new complaints. In public session, the IEC dismissed three new complaints as frivolous and did not make a decision on a fourth new complaint. Finally, the IEC gave scheduling updates regarding the upcoming briefs and hearing for Complaint 16-13 (Glendale City Councilor Allen). The parties will file written arguments regarding the jurisdiction of the IEC over home rule municipalities and the application of Position Statement 16-01 (home rule ethics codes) in advance of a public hearing to be held on July 24 at 2pm. At the hearing, the parties will argue these legal points, the Commissioners will ask questions and deliberate on these matters.

June 12, 2017

The IEC notes at the start that this is the last monthly meeting of Commissioner Bob Bacon, whose term expires June 30, 2017. Governor Hickenlooper appointed Gary Michael Reiff as his successor for a term expiring July 2021. Staff report discussed final budget from legislature for FY 2018 and start of budget review process for FY 2019. Budget discussion will begin the public session of IEC’s July meeting at 9am. Commissioners approved the 2016 Annual Report to be made available on the website, as well as some updated FAQs. The IEC considered Letter Rule 17-01 from a citizen in the Town of Pitkin regarding possible conflicts of interest of town councilmembers. Commissioners deferred final action on the letter and will confer with interested parties about the proper procedure to move forward (letter ruling or advisory opinion).

The IEC briefly discusses the process for the upcoming briefs and July 24 2pm hearing for Complaint 16-13 (Glendale City Councilor Allen) regarding the jurisdiction of the IEC over home rule municipalities and the application of Position Statement 16-01 (home rule ethics codes). The Commission also discusses the status of its investigation in Complaint 16-20 (Rep. Kim Ransom) and possible subpoenas of records for donor information.

 The Commission then moved into executive session for legal updates from the Attorney General’s office and consideration of new complaints. In public session, the IEC votes 5-0 to find new Complaint 17-18 (Sen. Vicki Marble) not frivolous and direct Commission staff to start preparations for the investigative phase. The IEC also dismisses one complaint as frivolous, dismisses five related new complaints as withdrawn, and does not take any action on another new complaint. 

July 24, 2017

This was the first IEC meeting with new Commissioner Gary Reiff (D). The IEC had a preliminary budget discussion. It approved two advisory opinions to employees of the Department of Corrections regarding future employment. The IEC received the investigation report on the gift ban complaint against Rep. Kim Ransom (R). It also approved an extension of time for Rep. Vicki Marble (R) to respond to a different gift ban complaint while the Office of Legislative Legal Services secures outside counsel to represent her. The IEC spent most of the afternoon in a jurisdictional hearing on a complaint against former Glendale City Council member Jeff Allen. The question presented was whether the IEC could exercise jurisdiction over a complaint against a Glendale official considering that Glendale is a home rule jurisdiction with some form of ethics regulation. After public deliberation, the IEC took the matter under advisement to be discussed more at a future meeting.

August 28, 2017

The IEC held a procedural hearing on the complaint against Rep. Kim Ransom. The IEC also approved, on a 4-1 vote, Advisory Opinion 17-08 allowing Jefferson County employees to attend a seminar paid 80% by a nonprofit and 20% by a for-profit company, so long as the county paid 20% of the cost. Two new complaints were found non-frivolous.

September 28, 2017

On a 4-1 vote, the IEC dismissed a complaint against a Glendale municipal official on the grounds that the conduct alleged occurred before the IEC had issued its position statement on home rule jurisdiction. Procedural matters are discussed regarding complaints against Rep. Kim Ransom and Sen. Vicki Marble. The IEC approved Advisory Opinion 17-11 requested by Rep. Crisanta Duran on travel paid for by the state government. It found a new complaint (17-28) to be non-frivolous on a 3-1 vote and dismissed two more complaints as frivolous.

November 29, 2017

The IEC heard an update on the investigation of the gift ban complaint against Sen. Vicki Marble. The Commission served several subpoenas as part of its investigation of the complaint. The Commission then conducted a hearing on the merits of the ethics complaint against Rep. Kim Ransom. After the hearing, the IEC voted 5-0 that Rep. Ransom did not violate the gift ban or any other standard of conduct by accepting a “gold pass” to the Western Conservative Summit in 2016. The Commission also dismissed three new complaints as frivolous.

December 21, 2017

The IEC approved by a 3-0 vote (Commissioner Sorenson absent) the final order on the complaint against Rep. Kim Ransom, which resulted in a 5-0 ruling in her favor. Commissioner Reiff announced that he will concur in the judgment only and write separately. The IEC also rejected unanimously several motions filed by Sen. Vicki Marble to try to get the complaint against her dismissed. That complaint is set for a January 8 hearing.