Moments after the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint filed against former state Rep. Joe Salazar, he sent a letter to the complainant, the Public Trust Institute and its director, Suzanne Staiert, that he intends to file a lawsuit against them for malicious prosecution.
A letter sent to Staiert Tuesday said the complaint will be filed in Denver District Court.
The ethics commission decided unanimously Tuesday to dismiss a complaint filed in Dec. 2019 that alleged Salazar had engaged in illegal lobbying. A similar complaint, filed with the secretary of state on the same day, was dismissed on Aug. 4.
PTI alleged Salazar engaged in lobbying activity on four separate occasions after leaving office on Jan. 3, 2019. On Tuesday, Staiert agreed to dismiss three of the four complaints and focus on a March 4, 2019 press conference held at the state Capitol. Salazar, as director of Colorado Rising, encouraged members of his organization to contact lawmakers about passage of Senate Bill 19-181. The secretary of state's office said the press conference — and Salazar's request to his members — fell under an exception for grassroots lobbying. Liz Krupa, chair of the ethics commission, said during deliberations on the complaint that Salazar was hired as an attorney, not a lobbyist, and that attorneys advocate for their clients.
In his notice to PTI and Staiert, Salazar said the "tragic irony about your conduct and that of PTI is that the SOS dismissal took great pains to cite to your own prior decision made as Deputy Secretary of State to support this dismissal in my favor. Likewise, moments ago the IEC found the SOS dismissal highly persuasive as it dismissed your IEC complaint against me. In your capacity as a former Deputy Secretary of State, you were fully aware that my actions were not a violation of any law. Nonetheless, you maliciously proceeded to file and publicize these complaints against me, which was nothing more than a targeted political hit job."
PTI and Staiert have not yet returned a request for comment.
Staiert, a Republican from Centennial, is running for Senate District 27, the most hotly contested seat in the General Assembly in the 2020 general election. As of Monday, more than $1 million has been spent on opposition ads targeting Staiert by Democratic-leaning independent expenditure committees.