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The folks at Colorado Ethics Watch, the organization that originally brought a complaint against 6th District Congressman Mike Coffman in regard to his actions while serving as Colorado's Secretary of State, aren't thrilled with the just-announced decision by the Independent Ethics Commission to clear Coffman of wrongdoing. Moments ago, CEW issued a statement by its director, Chantall Taylor, in which she declares, "By its ruling today the IEC set the bar dangerously low for ethics in the state and Colorado voters should be gravely concerned about the precedent set by this decision."
To read the entire response, click "Continue."
Colorado Ethics Watch statement:
Today, the Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) issued its ruling in the complaint brought by Colorado Ethics Watch alleging ethics violations by Congressman Mike Coffman while he served as Colorado's Secretary of State. The IEC found that Coffman technically violated state law by allowing a senior employee to operate a partisan side business, but excused his conflict with a voting machine vendor based on apparent procedural safeguards. As a result, the IEC ruled not to impose sanctions. Chantell Taylor, director of Ethics Watch, released this statement in response:
"By its ruling today the IEC set the bar dangerously low for ethics in the state and Colorado voters should be gravely concerned about the precedent set by this decision. Mr. Coffman unapologetically admitted in his testimony at the hearing that he knowingly hired the same firm to launch his congressional campaign that was simultaneously lobbying on behalf of a voting system vendor during the system certification process. Ethics Watch also established through documentary evidence and testimony that Mr. Coffman was fully aware that his elections technology director was running an unlawful side business and did nothing to stop it. The IEC ignored this evidence, including a statement from Mr. Kopelman himself that proved Mr. Coffman's knowledge. The IEC did not see fit to reprimand Mr. Coffman for these textbook examples of a conflict of interest, sending an alarming message to all Colorado public officials that ethics standards in this state are still toothless.
Also concerning is the IEC's disregard of the constitutional requirement that it conduct an investigation of all complaints. In this case, the IEC conducted no investigation, did not allow Ethics Watch to engage in any discovery, yet raised the burden of proof and then claimed a lack of evidence as a basis for its ruling. It is abundantly clear that the IEC does not intend to fulfill its duty to serve as Colorado's ethics enforcement commission.
On the positive side, thanks to Ethics Watch's complaint, Mr. Coffman was finally forced to answer for his actions in front of the voter-established commission. We hope this puts all public officials in this state on notice that unethical behavior will still be identified, examined in front of the voters, and reviewed for possible sanctions. Ethics Watch will continue to pressure the IEC to do its job and hold public officials accountable for their standards of conduct through legal actions and by empowering Colorado citizens with vital information about the activities of their state and local government."