Three former employees of Denver Community Planning and Development have each lodged complaints against Scott Prisco, the city's chief building officer, alleging that Prisco used his official role to remove roadblocks for a project overseen by a company owned by his wife.
In October 2018, Prisco requested an official opinion from the Denver Board of Ethics "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 such as time, computers, paper and telephones for his outside business. He was also advised against being involved in the permitting, inspection or construction of Hip Homes projects.
But on May 10 and again on May 16, 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," the hearing notice reads. Prisco is listed as the owner of the property on West Asbury Avenue. On October 11, the board's notice continues, Prisco tweeted an advertisement for Hip Homes "with a Denver logo and listing him as the Engineering & Architecture Director/Building Officer for the City and County of Denver."
When Westword contacted Community Planning and Development today, November 22, requesting an interview with Prisco, department spokesperson Laura Swartz said that he was out of the office. The department is aware of the complaints, she added, and is waiting on a decision from the Board of Ethics before determining how to respond. She said she did not know when the Board of Ethics would issue its decision.
"Mr. Prisco obtained an advisory opinion from the Denver Board of Ethics in 2018 allowing him to hold both the position of Denver’s Building Official and Chief Executive Officer of Hip Homes, LLC, subject to the requirements outlined in Sections 2-61 and 2-63 of the Code of Ethics," Swartz wrote in an email to Westword following the phone call. "We will wait to hear the screening decision of the Board of Ethics as to whether Mr. Prisco has upheld these requirements."
On October 2, Prisco sent a letter to the Board of Ethics responding to one of the complaints. In it, he said that Altamont Investment LLC owns the land where the project is located. "To be very clear my wife nor myself have any ownership shares in this company or property," he continued.
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"With regards to my working on Hip Homes, LLC project during working hours; I explicitly answered the question that was asked that I only work onsite on my days off and on weekends or week nights after working hours," he said. "Inspections were not completed while I was on site."
One of the complainants, Barbara Galaviz, resigned from her position as an associate city inspector on October 2, the same day she lodged her complaint; she'd been with the city for seventeen years. In her resignation letter, Galaviz cited several grievances she had with the department, including what she characterized as frequent nepotism.
"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, "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."
This story is developing; we'll updated it as we receive new information.