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FYI 9: The IEC's Jurisdiction

 

The Independent Ethics Commission provides guidance, issues decisions and hears complaints on cases and matters within its jurisdiction as outlined in Article XXIX of the Colorado Constitution. One of the issues that the IEC deals with most frequently is what is a gift under Article XXIX.  Gifts include:

 

  • Money ( $53 limit does not apply-a public employee or official may never accept money)
  • Favors or Services
  • Honoraria (but see, PS 08-01 for guidelines)
  • Travel
  • Entertainment
  • Special Discounts (but see, PS 08-03 for guidelines)
  • Loans
  • Rewards
  • Negotiations for Future Employment (see PS 09-03 for guidelines)

There are some exceptions for travel paid for by a state or local government, or a nonprofit, campaign contributions, bonuses, and meals when you are delivering a speech, among others.  (See, FYI 12 Travel)
 

 But many legitimate ethics questions that find their way to the Commission cannot be handled by the IEC due to limits on the Commission's jurisdiction.  So, where should you turn? The answer varies depending on the type of problem or question you have.


Some of the most common complaints dismissed by the IEC have to do with government employee/manager disputes.   The IEC is required to keep some dismissed complaints confidential, so it cannot publish details that might be helpful to others with similar circumstances. However, these types of complaints are more properly handled by human resources departments, the State Personnel Board (for state government employees), ombuds or mediators who serve your particular government agency.



While the IEC believes Article XXIX gives it jurisdiction to hear campaign finance complaints, the IEC and the Colorado Secretary of State have an understanding that these types of complaints should first be forwarded to the Secretary of State’s office - since other election law violation complaints are typically heard there, and they have the expertise in election law.


Certain types of general assembly issues clearly fall under the IEC’s jurisdiction. However, a separate body of rules  govern particular legislative conduct - such as libel, or conflict of interest. Depending on the type of behavior in question, the IEC or the legislative leadership may be responsible to hear a particular complaint regarding a state senator or representative.
 



There are certain local governing and quasi-government organizations that do not fall under the IEC’s jurisdiction – such as school boards, or special recreation districts.  Complaints regarding these types of organizations typically fall to the internal discipline structure of that agency to address. Frequently these governmental agencies have pre-established ethics guidelines to assist their constituents and members.
 

Although the Commission does have jurisdiction over many county and municipal employees, it does not have jurisdiction over home rule cities and counties which have its own ethics code and commission. This includes, for example,  Denver and Colorado Springs and several others.  If you have a question about whether your city or county is a home rule jurisdiction with an ethics code, please contact the Commission.  For information about the Denver Ethics Board, call or email Michael Henry, the Staff Director, at 720.865.8412 or michael.henry@denvergov.org.  For information about the Colorado Springs Ethics Commission, email cmelcher@springsgov.com.  Complaints regarding unethical conduct by businesses are not handled by the IEC. These complaints should be referred to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office Consumer Hot Line. (800-222-4444) or stopfraud@state.co.us.  The IEC only has jurisdiction over public employees and officials.  If you have questions regarding ethical rules for members of the General Assembly, please see, http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/olls/ethics.htm, or call the Office of Legislative Legal Services at 303.866.2045.


 

Neither does the IEC have jurisdiction over state or local agencies who you feel are not doing their job well, unless you have facet-specific evidence of a conflict of interest or the receipt of impermissible gifts. 

The Commission does not hear complaints regarding attorneys or judges and employees of the judicial branch. Complaints of this nature should be referred to the Attorney Regulation Counsel (303.457.5800 1.877.888.1370) or the Commission on Judicial Discipline (303. 457.5131).



Some complaints may involve the serious criminal allegations – such as taking a bribe. While the IEC may have jurisdiction over allegations or complaints alleging criminal conduct, if a complaint alleges criminal conduct it is generally more appropriate to refer it to a law enforcement agency such as a police department of District Attorney's Office.

The IEC’s goal is to advance ethics in government. If you have any questions you are encouraged to contact the IEC informally for guidance with any ethics matter.