The Denver City Council on Monday voted to approve the appointment of a lobbyist who made campaign contributions to several council members to vet candidates to a board that oversees allegations of police misconduct.
The council voted 9-3 to appoint Roger Sherman as their representative on a three-member nominating committee that screens application for the Citizen Oversight Board.
The vote marked the first time that the three insurgent candidates who defeated incumbents to win their council seat split away as a block from the rest of the council.
All three — Candi CdeBaca, Chris Hinds and Amanda Sawyer — said their vote on Sherman reflected the change that they believe the voters wanted by electing them.
“I think with our recent elections we set a precedent that really was saying to the city that we want more checks and balances and accountability,” CdeBaca said.
She also noted that Sherman ran a successful campaign this spring against Initiative 300, which would have repealed the city’s urban campaign ban and asserted the right of homeless people to live in public places.
CdeBaca opposed the urban camping ban, which had been sponsored by her opponent, incumbent Albus Brooks.
She initially asked that the vote be postponed until Aug. 5 so that a “courtesy” public hearing could be held on Sherman’s appointment.
But the council defeated that move by a 10-2 vote.
Councilman Kevin Flynn said such a hearing would be “unprecedented.”
“I think that’s an abuse and a misuse of the council’s time,” said Flynn, who also cited Sherman’s advocacy for a strong Office of the Independent Monitor of police conduct during his time on the Citizen Oversight Board.
At-Large Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who co-sponsored the bill that expanded the board and created the nominating committee, said that committee has no power over appointments and simply screens and recommends candidates.
“So frankly this body has a lot of work and very little power,” Kniech said.
Hinds noted that Sherman, who lives in his district, had contributed $1,000 to the campaigns of both Hinds, the incumbent Wayne New and another challenger.
As a former citizen-lobbyist himself, Hinds said he appreciated the role that lobbyists perform.
But he also noted that Sherman is managing partner of CLR Associates, the largest lobbying firm in the city.
“I think this is an opportunity to find someone who is less connected with Denver politics,” Hinds said.
“I believe this is an opportunity to demonstrate that there should be a distinction between where lobbying ends and where the city begins,” he said.
“Together Denver, we can do better," he added, using a slogan of Together Denver, the anti-300 campaign that Sherman led.
After the vote, Sherman said he appreciated the council approving his appointment.
“I was asked to apply based on my understanding of the Office of the Independent Monitor and the role of the COB [Citizen Oversight Board], which gives me good insight on the skills needed to be effective and time required by members of the board,” he said in an email.
“During my time on the COB, I was a strong voice for the importance of the OIM and critical role of citizen oversight, pushed for broader deployment of body camera technology so the monitor had the necessary video evidence when reviewing officer conduct, and advocated for strengthening the OIM ordinance,” he added.
“I’m honored to be able to lend my knowledge and experience to the review and appointment process of future COB members,” he said.