Ethics Watch released its annual list of the top scandals in Colorado during 2009. We don't attempt to rank the scandals - each of these very different events could arguably be declared the "worst." Here are the five scandals we thought deserved to be remembered as we enter a new year:
Scott McInnis' Damning Voice Mail: In May, a conservative website posted a voice message apparently left by former Congressman McInnis, indicating that he was running for governor before registering as a candidate, had his team in place, and was putting together a 527. McInnis quietly filed his paperwork for candidacy on May 19, but questions still remain as to the activities he was conducting prior to registering as a candidate, and potential coordination with a 527, which would violate state election laws.
CSU Board of Governors Hands Plum Job to One of Their Own in Secret Meeting: As vice president of the Colorado State University (CSU) Board of Governors, Joe Blake participated in a decision to create a chancellor position separate from the president position. Mr. Blake formally submitted his application for this very position on April 29. On May 5, the CSU Board of Governors had a closed-door executive session meeting during which they decided that Mr. Blake would be the sole finalist for the chancellor position. That meeting was ruled to violate Colorado Open Meetings laws. CSU paid three media outlets $19,000 in legal fees and released the tapes of the closed-door session.
Colorado Independent Ethics Commission's Troubles With Transparency: In May, the IEC was ordered by a Denver District Court Judge to release records subject to an Ethics Watch open records request and to pay Ethics Watch's attorneys' fees. In September, another Denver District Court Judge ruled that the IEC was in violation of Colorado's open meetings laws, and ordered the IEC to release records from the meetings to a media outlet. And finally in December, a third judge ruled that the IEC debated an advisory opinion in secret, again violating open meetings laws.
Gale Norton's Questionable Oil Industry Work: In September 2009 the Department of Justice issued subpoenas as part of an investigation into Bush administration Interior Secretary and former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton. The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating whether Gale Norton used her position in the Interior Department to benefit Royal Dutch Shell by allowing her department to enter into three potentially lucrative amendments to oil leases with Royal Dutch Shell on federal land in Colorado, then took a job as an adviser to the oil-shale division of Royal Dutch Shell.
Representative Pommer's Campaign Finance Violations and "Bad at Paperwork" Defense: Representative Jack Pommer, a candidate in the 2008 general election for the Colorado House of Representatives, missed filing four separate campaign finance reports between October 2008 and January 2009 and later said he is "bad at paperwork." The Secretary of State's office imposed fines of more than $4,000 on Pommer.
The full report is available here.