Glenda Swanson Lyle struck a blow for good government last year when she introduced a bill in the Colorado legislature to prevent dishonest politicians from taking office.
But Representative Lyle, a Democrat who represents voters in northeast Denver, is now fending off questions about her own integrity. The state has had to go to court to force her to pay a four-year-old tax debt, and she has ignored a judge's order in the case for so long that she faces a possible citation for contempt of court.
Lyle, who was elected to District 8 in 1992 and is running again unopposed, owes Colorado almost $1,600 in delinquent taxes, penalties and interest, according to a complaint filed in Denver County Court. Mark Field, a collection attorney for the state, says the debt is for unemployment insurance owed by Lyle's consulting firm, Planners Etc., in 1990 and 1991.
In the years for which she owes state taxes, Lyle's firm billed the City of Denver for almost $140,000 worth of work as a consultant for the Denver Employment and Training Administration (now the Mayor's Office of Employment and Training).
Field first filed the state's suit in February, after efforts to collect the money by both the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Administration failed. Records show that Lyle denied she owed the state anything but lost the case in March because she neglected to pay the necessary filing fee along with her answer to Field's complaint.
Since then, Field has asked Lyle for details about her finances, which he needs in order to collect on the judgment. But despite a June order from Judge Alfred Harrell to cooperate, Lyle has not responded to the request. Last month Harrell ordered Lyle to explain why she shouldn't be held in contempt. A hearing is scheduled for early December, but Field says if Lyle provides him with the financial information by then, the contempt charge likely will not be brought.
Reached by Westword last week, Lyle professed ignorance about the case, saying she had no knowledge whatsoever about the debt or the court proceeding. "I don't have any information on that," she said. Court records show that in July a professional process server delivered papers related to the case to Lyle's home in Five Points.
Lyle has been an elected official for several years. Between 1987 and 1993 she served on the board of the Regional Transportation District, collecting a salary of $3,000 a year. Since moving to the House of Representatives, she has received a salary of $17,500 a year plus a $45-a-day living allowance during the four months the legislature is in session. During her first term in the House, Lyle has compiled a liberal voting record on issues relating to juvenile crime and civil rights. She has, for example, supported the funding of crime-prevention programs over the construction of new prisons; this year she proposed a one-cent sales tax on bullets sold in the state.
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Last year Lyle introduced a bill that would have made it a crime for state political candidates to make false statements during their campaigns. The bill called for stiff punishment: Violators would have faced fines of up to $25,000, up to a year in jail and removal from office.
"People in campaigns have made statements that are knowingly false, just complete lies," Lyle said at the time. "We need to make it clear that we will no longer tolerate this sort of campaign fraud."
The bill died on the House floor.
In March Lyle was one of two candidates vying for the state Senate seat of Regis Groff, who resigned to head Colorado's new Youth Offender System. But a Democratic Party vacancy committee picked state representative Gloria Tanner to succeed Groff instead.