FAQ: Filing a Complaint
Before filing a complaint, please review Rule 7 of the IEC’s Rules of Procedure.
Who may file a complaint?
Any person may file a written complaint with the IEC.
What conduct may a person complain about to the IEC?
A person may file a complaint asking whether a public officer, member of the general assembly, local government official, or government employee has failed to comply with Article XXIX’s requirements or any other standards of conduct or reporting requirements as provided by law.
How long do I have to file a complaint?
A complaint must be filed within twelve months of the alleged violation.
What are some examples of conduct that is not under the IEC’s jurisdiction?
Violations of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law (OML), Open Records Act (CORA) or allegations of judicial misconduct are a few examples of conduct that does not fall within the IEC’s jurisdiction.
How Do I File a Complaint?
Complaints must be submitted in writing and filed with the IEC at the offices of the IEC. A complaint may be hand delivered to the IEC or sent to the IEC offices via first class mail or by facsimile. Complaints may be sent via electronic mail only if they contain the signature of the person making the complaint.
A complaint must not name more than one respondent, even if complainants allege the same conduct by multiple respondents. Therefore, if a complainant wishes to file complaints against multiple respondents, the complainant must file multiple complaints. Complaints must not cross-reference the existence of other complaints.
To submit a complaint to the IEC, download and fill out a complaint form. You may file the form and any attachments electronically or by mail. You do not need to be represented by an attorney—you can prepare and file a complaint yourself.
What information is required in a complaint?
All complaints filed with the IEC must contain the name, address and telephone number of the person filing the complaint. An email address should be provided if available.
The complaint also shall have the following information:
A statement of the facts underlying the complaint, specifically identifying the ethical violation, the section or sections of Article XXIX or other standard of conduct which the complainant believes was violated;
The name, address, job title and email (if available) of the person about whom the complaint is being made;
The date of the violation;
A statement that, to the best of the complainant’s knowledge, information and belief, the facts and allegations set out in the complaint are true, followed by the complainant’s signature.
The complainant may attach any relevant information to the complaint that will assist the IEC in making it determination.
What happens next?
The IEC will review the complaint and determine whether the complaint is frivolous or non-frivolous. Any complaint filed with the IEC remains confidential, unless and until the IEC deems it to be non-frivolous. The IEC will not acknowledge the existence of any complaint or its contents unless and until it finds a complaint to be non-frivolous. If the IEC determines the complaint to be frivolous it remains confidential.
What does the IEC mean when it uses the word “frivolous”?
“Frivolous” is specifically used in Article XXIX, section 5(3)(b). A frivolous complaint means a complaint filed without a rational basis in fact or law for the IEC’s involvement, including complaints that are untimely or over which the IEC lacks jurisdiction. IEC Rule 3.A.5.
In the context of Article XXIX and the IEC’s rules, the term “frivolous” does not have the same meaning that it has in normal everyday usage (lacking in seriousness or marked by unbecoming levity). As such, when the IEC uses the term “frivolous”, it does not mean that a complaint is trivial, of low importance, or filed in bad faith. A frivolous dismissal is not a statement about the complainant or the quality of the work put into the complaint
A complaint must be kept confidential by the IEC until a determination has been made that the complaint is not frivolous. Article XXIX’s confidentiality provisions serve to protect both the complainant and the respondent from retaliation and widespread dissemination of allegations that can impact reputations, elections, and the like. Article XXIX requires the IEC to exercise its constitutionally mandated duty to determine which complaints warrant further proceedings and which do not. Thus, the decision to keep a complaint confidential by declaring it to be frivolous and not pursuing it further has been held to be non-reviewable by the courts, much like the decision of a prosecutor not to prosecute. Colo. Ethics Watch v. Indep. Ethics Comm'n, 2016 CO 21.
A few examples of frivolous complaints include: (1) a complaint that raises no Article XXIX ethical issues, such as a complaint about a county’s zoning decisions; or (2) a special district’s decision to increase rates charged to consumers.
May I attend the IEC’s meeting when it decides if the complaint is frivolous or not?
The IEC’s meetings are open to the public, but the Colorado Constitution requires that complaints be accorded special treatment. Prior to deciding whether a complaint is frivolous, the IEC discusses the complaint in closed, executive session. After the discussion in executive session, the IEC will vote to decide whether the complaint is frivolous. Voting always occurs in open, public session. However, due to the IEC’s obligation to keep the complaint confidential, the IEC’s deliberations about whether a complaint is frivolous will not include public discussion of the complaint.
If the IEC dismisses the complaint as being frivolous, will they tell me why they dismissed it?
No. The IEC’s deliberations in executive session are confidential and the content of the IEC’s discussion remains confidential.
If the IEC determines the complaint to be non-frivolous, what happens?
If the IEC determines the complaint to be non-frivolous, the complaint will be posted on the IEC website, sent to the respondent for a response, and investigated by the IEC staff.
What is my role as the complainant in the proceedings?
You will become a party to the proceedings and asked to participate in any and all hearings conducted by the IEC. Because the IEC is the decisionmaking body, the parties are responsible for presenting evidence, calling witnesses, and making arguments.
The IEC grants latitude to complainants and respondents who represent themselves, and the IEC understands that not every party will retain an attorney. The IEC wants to ensure that all Coloradoans have access to the IEC, and staff is therefore available to answer questions regarding filing a complaint, responding to a complaint, and IEC procedures. However, IEC staff, commissioners, and attorneys cannot provide legal advice to the parties.
What standard does the IEC apply in determining whether an ethics violation has occurred?
The IEC makes its findings based on a preponderance of the evidence, unless it determines that circumstances warrant a heightened standard.