The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission will move forward with an investigation into some, but not all, of a former Republican lawmaker's complaints about travel and gifts provided to then-Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2018.
The state panel voted unanimously Monday to look at five travel-related gifts and dismissed three others filed by former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty and his Public Trust Institute.
They decided to postpone action on a Hickenlooper motion to dismiss the complaint in its entirety until after the investigation is completed.
> FROM DEC. 17, 2018: Colorado Ethics Commission takes up complaint against Hickenlooper
McNulty's complaint alleges Hickenlooper violated state ethics laws.
The claims that the commission authorized for an investigation include:
- Travel June 7-10, 2018, to Turin, Italy, for the Bilderberg Meeting of international political, business and academic leaders. The commission decided to dismiss part of that claim after Hickenlooper provided credit card statements showing he had paid for all expenses except for the conference itself. Hickenlooper attorney Mark Grueskin pointed out that the conference charged no fees for attendance. However, McNulty said the conference was paid for by automaker Fiat Chrysler, and that Hickenlooper accepted meals and car travel provided during the conference. That part of the claim remains.
- Travel on March 15, 2018, related to the commissioning of the USS Colorado, on a private jet owned by Colorado businessman Larry Mizel, head of homebuilder M.D.C. Holdings.
- Travel on Jan. 10, 2018, between New Jersey and Colorado, on a private jet owned by a personal friend, Kenneth Tuchman, founder of Colorado outsourcing company TTEC. Hickenlooper went to New Jersey to be with his wife, Robin, who was having a medical procedure. He returned via private jet in order to make his final State of the State address.
- Travel on Aug. 13, 2018, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for an American Enterprise Institute conference on a plane owned by Hickenlooper's chief of staff, Patrick Murphy.
- Travel on April 8-10, 2018, to Texas to officiate at the wedding of friend Kimbal Musk, on a jet owned by Musk, who co-founded The Kitchen Restaurant Group and is the brother of Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
The commission dismissed parts of McNulty's complaint where Hickenlooper was able to show credit card receipts and/or statements, including the travel and hotel costs for Bilderberg, an Aug. 10, 2018, trip to Aspen and a Sept. 6, 2018, trip to Canada.
> FROM OCT. 12, 2018: Hickenlooper faces ethics complaint over travel
The panel also dismissed all claims that took place prior to Oct. 12, 2017. That's because the commission limits its jurisdiction to the 12 months preceding the filing of the complaint.
However, Commissioner Bill Leone said he believed those claims prior to Oct. 12, 2017 are relevant. McNulty said after the hearing that those prior claims demonstrate a pattern of illegal activity by the former governor.
McNulty said after the hearing that he was pleased that the commission is moving forward on the complaint.
In a separate matter, the commission also voted 3-2 to appeal a recent Denver District Court decision made against the commission in an ethics complaint involving Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon.
The judge declared that the Independent Ethics Commission no longer has jurisdiction over the ethics rules of "home rule" cities such as Glendale as well as Denver, Colorado Springs and dozens of others.
Leone said the judge "missed the issue," which is that Amendment 41 -- a voter-approved measure establishing state ethics rules for public officials -- requires home rule cities to adopt a gift ban and to have an independent body that reviews ethics complaints. Glendale (and other cities and counties) did not incorporate a gift ban nor an independent body in its ethics code.
The judge disagreed, stating that the amendment requires only that a home rule entity address the issue, and that according to a Title Board hearing that took place prior to the passage of Amendment 41, an ethics code could be less, equal or more strict than Amendment 41.
Leone said that if the judge's ruling were allowed to stand, "85 percent" of the people of Colorado would be exempt from the amendment, referring to the employees of the more than 100 home rule cities and counties in Colorado.
Meanwhile, the commission also may be finally moving toward allowing the public to listen to commission meetings through streaming technology.
Executive Director Dino Ioannides told commissioners that the Joint Budget Committee "offered" to help the commission with resources that would make live streaming of commission meetings possible.
The commission has owned the equipment for live-streaming since 2015. Ioannides told Colorado Politics last year the panel was planning to offer that equipment to the Colorado State Surplus Agency for liquidation after abandoning the idea of live-streaming in 2016.
The commission put up two meetings on YouTube but stopped because the IEC has only one employee — Ioannides himself — "whose primary work responsibilities made it impossible to operate the live audio production equipment in an effective and reliable manner.”
The commission is one of very few state public bodies that provides no way for the public to listen to the meetings, other than providing, on request, a copy of the audio after the meetings take place.
Members of the public can call in to listen to the meetings, but information on how to make that call is not provided on the commission's website.