27 January 2009

Colorado's Independent Ethics Commission

Colorado voters passed an initiative commonly known as Amendment 41, best known for its "gift ban." The gift ban is supervised by an independent ethics commission which now exists and has a website. On the website were various tea leaves, some interesting, that I recite here with a minimum of commentary.

* From the minutes of the January 14, 2009 meeting:

The Commission met in Executive Session from 11:55 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.

The Commission returned to Open Session at 4:20 p.m.

1. It was moved, seconded and passed unanimously to dismiss Complaint 09-01
pursuant to IEC Rule 7.D.3, because the alleged violation, if true, would not
constitute a violation of Colorado Constitution Article XXIX, or any other standard of conduct or reporting requirement under the jurisdiction of the IEC. (Commissioner
Lasha excused).

The subject of the 4 hour and 25 minute executive session wasn't described. The agenda for the meeting described it as "Discussion pertaining to requests for advisory opinions and complaints filed with the Commission. C.R.S. §§24-6-402(3)(a)(III); 13-90-107(1)(b); 24-18.5-101; Article XXIX of the Colorado Constitution." If the session was mostly spent discussing Complaint 09-01, the Complaint wasn't an open and shut case; but it is possible that much of the session was spent on multiple advisory opinions. In 2008, there were 71 such requests according to the annual report.

* There commission issued three policies in 2008, although the copy of the website for the first appears incomplete, and another in 2009 (at the front page of their website) that produce an error when I tried to click on it to access it.

* According to the 2008 Annual Report, "Complaint 08-01: In re: Mike Coffman was determined to be non-frivolous, and is scheduled for a public hearing on March 6, 2009." This decision was made as follows:

Complaint 08-01: The IEC voted 3-1 (Commissioner Smith dissenting) to deem the complaint non-frivolous and proceed to a public hearing. (Commissioner Hopper recused). (10/06/08)

Motions in Mike Coffman's case (now Republican Congressman Coffman of the 6th Congressional District and formerly Colorado Secretary of State Coffman) were on the agenda of the Commission's January 23, 2009 meeting.

The substance of Complaint 08-01 against Coffman is discussed here, but there is apparently no way to get this information from the Ethics Commission itself.

* The 2008 Annual Report also noted the following:

Pending Litigation:

1. The Commission intervened in the case of Developmental Pathways v. Ritter, 07CV1353 (Denver District Court). This case, which concerns the constitutionality of Article XXIX, is pending. A status conference is scheduled for March 13, 2009.

2. The Commission filed an application in Denver District Court to protect the confidentiality of requests for advisory opinion on grounds that to release that information would cause a chilling effect on people seeking advice from the Commission. This case was consolidated with another case in which the IEC was sued under the Colorado Open Records Act for not providing this information. This case is pending. No hearing date has been set.

So far, all attempted to adjudicate the constitutionality of Amendment 41 on the merits have been rebuffed as unripe pending the establishment of the Independent Ethics Commission. But, now that the Commission exists and has started to render opinions, a court may someday rule on the constitutionality of particular components of Amendment 41 which are currently the subject of legal challenges. It isn't clear if this will happen in March or not.

Make of it what you will.

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