Denver Development

City Building Official Used His Position to Help Personal Business

The property at 2650 West Asbury Avenue.
The property at 2650 West Asbury Avenue. Google Images
The Denver Board of Ethics has unanimously agreed that Scott Prisco, the city's chief building official, used his position to help his home-construction business.

On January 8, the board found that Prisco had violated three sections of the municipal code pertaining to conflicts of interest while employed, using city resources for outside employment, and using a public office for private gain. He's still an employee of Denver's Community Planning and Development department.

According to Board of Ethics Executive Director Lori Weiser, the board only issues findings and does not make employment-related decisions. "It falls back to the hand of the appointing authority, which in this case would be the executive director of Community Planning, for whatever steps they take to discipline or make corrective action," Weiser says.

Laura Swartz, communications director for Community Planning and Development, says that Prisco is no longer allowed to serve as CEO of Hip Homes while he is a city building official. While Prisco has declined to comment on the board's decision, Swartz sent this statement from CPD executive director Laura Aldrete:

"It is extremely important to me that we at Community Planning and Development do our jobs with integrity and skill. While I believe these were honest mistakes made by Mr. Prisco, I want to assure the public and our staff that we have taken corrective actions to prevent this type of situation from arising again in the future. Chief among these is that Mr. Prisco has been prohibited from engaging in any further private business that would require permits and inspections in the City and County of Denver while he is serving in the role of building official. I appreciate the Board of Ethics’ careful deliberation on this matter."

In October 2018, Prisco asked the Denver Board of Ethics to weigh in "with respect to whether his outside business activity with Hip Homes, LLC would violate the Denver Code of Ethics," according to a notice for a hearing issued by the board. The board advised Prisco against using city resources for his business and being involved in the permitting and inspection of Hip Homes projects.

But in May 2019, Prisco emailed "city employees from his city email account asking for a 'favor' by asking them to log in a document to avoid delay for a Hip Homes project located at 2650 West Asbury Avenue in Denver," a property he owns, according to the hearing notice. Later in the year, three former employees of Community Planning and Development each lodged complaints against Prisco, alleging that he had used his office to remove roadblocks for Hip Homes, which is registered in Prisco's wife's name with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office. One of the complainants, Barbara Galviz, resigned from her position as an associate city inspector on October 2, the same day she lodged her complaint against Prisco.

"I was told I needed to report outside employment because my husband and I own a small family-run business and had to agree to not do business in Denver," she wrote in her resignation letter, "while a Chief Building Official is allowed to not only have a business in Denver but perform the duties for that business during City work hours and was told he could not participate in any part of the construction or permitting process, but has done just that."

Prisco "made some mistakes," Weiser says. "He's owning those [by] not having any projects in Denver so as to not to put anyone in this position in the future. He wants to be transparent about his company." 
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Ana Campbell has been Westword's managing editor since 2016. She has worked at magazines and newspapers around the country, picking up a few awards along the way for her writing and editing. She grew up in south Texas.
Contact: Ana Campbell