Joe Salazar, Colorado Rising

Joe Salazar, executive director of Colorado Rising, poses for a portrait at his home in Thornton on Dec. 19, 2019. 

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to review an ethics complaint filed against former state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton.

The complaint, lodged by the Republican-based Public Trust Institute, alleges Salazar violated Amendment 41's provision that bans lawmakers from lobbying in Colorado for two years after leaving office. Salazar represented House District 31 from 2013 through the end of 2018.

The complaint says Salazar was hired by the anti-fracking group Colorado Rising on Jan. 4, 2019. That was the first day of the 2019 legislative session and the last day Salazar was a member of the House (legislative terms last until the new members are sworn in on the first day of the next session).

Salazar held a press conference on the west steps of the state Capitol on Jan. 4, announcing his new employer's intent to "directly influence state legislation and policy," according to PTI. At that time, Salazar said the governor's office "doesn’t belong to one individual no matter how much he paid for it. It doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to the people of the state of Colorado. And Colorado Rising is here to give them that reminder on a daily basis if we need to."

The Institute claims that Salazar lobbied lawmakers on Senate Bill 181 on March 4, 2019, in a press conference where he urged people to contact Democratic senators to vote for the oil and gas reform measure. Neither Colorado Rising nor Salazar were listed as lobbyists in the Secretary of State's database, the Institute said.

The complaint said Salazar also lobbied lawmakers on immigration issues the following August.

Salazar declined a request for comment.

Suzanne Staiert, the executive director of the Public Trust Institute, is a Republican candidate for Senate District 27. The Institute was founded by former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty. Its website says its purpose is "to hold public officials accountable" but to date has filed complaints only against Democrats.

Next month, the ethics commission will hold a formal hearing on two complaints filed against former Gov. John Hickenlooper over aircraft travel and other travel expenses from 2018, before Hickenlooper left office. 

The commission also voted unanimously on Tuesday to review a complaint submitted by JoAnn Kalenak of Hotchkiss that alleges Delta County Administrator Robbie LeValley used a county credit card to make purchases from a company LeValley owns

The transactions took place in August 2019; according to the complaint, LeValley used the county card to make purchases from Homestead Meats, a company that LeValley co-owns, for use at the Delta County Fair. The Delta County Administrator works for the board of county commissioners as the county's chief executive.

Amendment 41 prohibits individuals covered under Amendment 41, which includes county employees, from using their office for private gain, including for financial gain.

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