Banner Art

Annual Report 2013

ANNUAL REPORT COLORADO INDEPENDENT ETHICS COOMISSION

 2012

Introduction

Origin of the Independent Ethics Commission

 
The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (“IEC” or “Commission”) was created by a voter-initiated constitutional amendment. This amendment, commonly referred to as “Amendment 41,” passed with over 62% of the vote, and became effective on December, 31, 2006 as Article XXIX of the Colorado Constitution.  

The IEC is authorized to implement and enforce Article XXIX.   The Article, section 5, provides:
 
The purpose of the independent ethics commission (sic)
shall be to hear complaints, issue findings, and assess
penalties, and also to issue advisory opinions on ethics
 issues arising under this article, and any other standards
 of conduct and reporting requirements as required by law.” 

 
 
The IEC has jurisdiction over all employees and elected officials in the legislative and executive branches of state government, as well as employees and elected officials of county and municipal governments that are not home rule entities and which do not have their own ethics ordinances. Local governments may adopt their own ethics laws, but those laws must be more stringent than Article XXIX. The Commission does not have jurisdiction over employees and elected officials of special districts or school districts.  
 
The Commission consists of five members, appointed as follows: one member is appointed by the Colorado House of Representatives, one by the Colorado Senate, one by the Governor, and one by the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. The fifth commissioner is selected by the other four members of the IEC and must be a local government employee or elected official. 
 
Commissioners serve without compensation but are reimbursed for actual and necessary expenses incurred in carrying out their official duties. Commissioners are appointed to four-year terms and may be reappointed.[1]   

 No more than two commissioners may be from the same political party.
The IEC held its first meeting on December 11, 2007. Originally located within the Office of Administrative Courts, the IEC’s offices were moved to the Judicial Department in 2010 pursuant to HB 1404.

 
 The members of the Commission in 2012 were: Dan Grossman, chair; Sally H. Hopper, vice-chair, Bill Pinkham and Matt Smith. There was a unfilled vacancy for the entire year due to the resignation of the Speaker of the House’s appointee at the end of 2011.. 
 
The Commission has jurisdiction over all state legislative branch employees and elected officials, and all state executive branch elected officials and employees, as well as employees and elected officials of all counties and municipalities in the state, unless they work for a home-rule county or municipality which has promulgated an ethics code or ordinance. 
 
The work of the Commission on its constitutionally-mandated mission to hear complaints and issue advisory opinions is summarized below. In addition, Commission staff responds to open records requests pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act (“CORA”), C.R.S. § 24-72-10, conducts trainings of state and local employees and officials, and answers informal questions from covered individuals, the press and public. 
 
 

Advisory Opinions, Letter Rulings, and Position Statements


The Commission issued thirteen opinions in 2012. One advisory opinion request was withdrawn. The opinions were:

 
·         Advisory Opinion 12-01: This opinion addressed whether a Logan County Commissioner faced a conflict of interest with regards to his private business. (03/22/12) 
 
·         Advisory Opinion 12-02: This opinion addressed whether Department of Personnel and Administration employees could accept travel reimbursement from a purchasing cooperative. two members of the Colorado General Assembly may accept reciprocal travel expenses.(02/06/12) 

·         Advisory Opinion 12-03: This opinion addressed whether an employee of the Department of Education could accept a trip to Taiwan. (04/03/12)
 
·         Advisory Opinion 12-04: This opinion addressed the question of whether a commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission could accept a fee waiver for a conference. (05/07/12)
 
·         Advisory Opinion 12-05: This opinion addressed whether a Jefferson County Commissioner could accept travel expenses from a lnonprofit organization.   (05/07/12)
 
·         Advisory Opinion 12-06 and 12-07: These opinions addressed the question of whether the Director of the Colorado Lottery could attend two different conferences. (06/28/12 and 08/24/12)
 
 
·         Advisory Opinion 12-08: This opinion addressed whether a commissioner on the Public Utilities Commission could accept the waiver of a registration fee and travel to the conference. The opinion was originally issued on 07/30/12 and a clarification was sought, and the opinion reissued on 08/24/12

 
·         Advisory Opinion 12-09: This opinion addressed whether the Office of the Governor could accept the use of a hybrid vehicle. (09/20/12)
 
·         Advisory Opinion 12-10: This request was withdrawn due to timing issues. 

 
·         Advisory Opinion 12-11: This opinion addressed whether the Executive Director of a state agency could accept a trip to Israel. (08/24/12)

 
·         Letter Ruling 12-01 This opinion addressed how a free meal should be valued when covered individuals are given a complimentary ticket to a luncheon. (02/06/12)

 
·         Position Statement 12-01 (Travel) : The Commission issued a revised position statement on travel to give guidance to all covered individuals. (12/07/12)
 
·         Position Statement 12-02 (Application of Gift Ban at Political Events): The Commission issued this position statement to remind covered individuals that Article XXIX applies to events at national political conventions and similar events. (09/04/12)
 

Complaints

The Commission received 7 complaints in 2012. Two were found non-frivolous and are currently pending. Complaint 12-06 is scheduled for a hearing in February 2013. Complaint 12-07 is pending, and the Commission will schedule for spring 2013. The IEC conducted two evidentiary hearings in 2012, and approved a settlement between the parties.


Other Activities

1.The Commission’s offices moved to the new Ralph Carr Justice Center in 2012. 

 

2. The IEC has revised its Handbook. The new Handbook will be available in January 2013, although it is available on the Commission’s website. 
 
3. The Commission remains committed to a training program for all employees and officials under its jurisdiction. The IEC’s sole employee conducted several trainings for larger groups under the auspices of Colorado Counties, Inc, and the Colorado Municipal League (“CML”). She did a webinar training for CML which was available to members on the CML website. She has also spoken at meetings of the County Attorneys Association, the Public Trustees Association, and is planning trainings for the members of the General Assembly, Colorado District Attorneys Council, Colorado Counties, Inc, and other organizations. 

 
In less than four years, the Commission has issued 56 opinions, (including 12 position statements, 7 letter rulings, and 37 advisory opinions), processed 38 complaints and promulgated and revised its Procedural Rules. The Commission has also searched for, and appointed two Commissioners. It has responded to 36 requests under the Colorado Open Records Act, C.R.S. §24-72-101 et seq. (“CORA”) and conducted three public hearings.
 
A summary of the Commission’s work to date appears below.
 

Year
# of Mtgs.
Opinions Issued
Complaints Received
Hearings
CORA Requests
Trainings
Informal advice calls
2008
 
24
3(all position statements)
4
0
4
2
57
2009
 
25
21(7 position statements, 5 letter rulings, 9 advisory opinions)
14
1
8
6
@175
2010
20
19 (1 position statement, 2 letter rulings, 16 advisory opinions)
9
1 (2 settled before hearing)
12
7
@ 150
2011
15
13 (1 position statement, 12 advisory opinions
12
1 (2 pending)
12
40
@ 75
Total since 2008
82
56
38
3
36
55
@437

 

 
 


[1] Commissioners initially appointed by the Governor and the Senate were appointed to two-year terms to achieve staggered terms and avoid a complete turnover of the Commission in future years.