The new Denver City Council is already putting veteran political lobbyists on watch.
On Monday, July 29, a bloc of councilmembers led by Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca voted against the appointment of CRL Associates managing partner and powerful lobbyist Roger Sherman to a city board that nominates individuals for another board that monitors law enforcement in Denver.
The opposition to Sherman's appointment to the Citizen Oversight Board Nomination Committee failed; only councilmembers Chris Hinds and Amanda Sawyer joined CdeBaca, who originally attempted to push the vote to next week to allow for a public hearing on the appointment. But the fact that three members voted against appointing Sherman to a volunteer role shows that council chambers might not be easy territory for lobbyists to navigate going forward.
In addition to being a regular at the City and County Building, Sherman, who sat in the front row at Monday's meeting, also led the No on Initiative 300 campaign, which handily defeated — and outspent — the Right to Survive initiative, which would have essentially overturned Denver's camping ban.
Councilman Kevin Flynn argued that postponing the vote would touch on topics "tangential" to Sherman's appointment to the board.
"Those who oppose this appointment should simply vote no on the resolution rather than postponing it for a week," Flynn said.
CdeBaca quickly countered his argument. "I think with our recent election we set a precedent that really was saying to this city that we want more checks and balances and accountability. I don’t think it's unnecessary or inappropriate to ask the community to be more extensively involved in these processes."
Councilwoman Robin Kniech suggested the new councilmembers do their homework. "In the future, I hope that folks will pay close attention both to announcements and openings for boards, as well as to the consent agenda, so that they can raise these questions in a way that doesn’t put individuals through a floor discussion," Kniech said, acknowledging that new councilmembers might not have had the time do so.
In arguing in favor of Sherman's appointment, Kniech said Sherman has the experience, since he previously served on the Citizen Oversight Board. "This nominee publicly advocated in this body for stronger oversight," Kniech said about Sherman's work to increase the power of the Office of the Independent Monitor, Denver's law enforcement watchdog.
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CdeBaca was unswayed by the praise for Sherman. "I still am doubtful that he is someone that can be nominating, recruiting and screening the appropriate person for the role," she explained. "Recycling people who have been in these spaces is another form of consolidating power."
CdeBaca also called out fellow members of city council for taking financial contributions from Sherman.
"I think the fact that we have a lobbyist play a very strong role in the issues coming before this body doesn’t mean that because they give us money, that any of them own us," replied councilwoman Debbie Ortega.
Kniech argued that in his new role, Sherman won't have significant sway. "This body frankly has a lot of work and very little power," she said.