Today, the Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the Independent Ethics Commission's 2013 ruling that former Secretary of State Scott Gessler breached the private trust for public gain when he used office funds to travel to Republican Party events in Florida in 2012 and when he paid himself a year-end bonus from funds in his office's discretionary account. The Commission’s ruling, the first imposing a fine on a public official for breach of the public trust since the constitutional amendment creating the commission was passed in 2006, arose from a complaint filed and prosecuted by Ethics Watch.
In its opinion, the Court of Appeals rejected Gessler's arguments that the Independent Ethics Commission did not have jurisdiction over violations of the state Ethics Code provision prohibiting misuse of public funds, that he did not receive notice of the charges against him, and that the Secretary of State has unreviewable discretion over the use of the department’s discretionary account.
"Nearly three years after our complaint was filed, the Court of Appeals affirmed what we knew all along: that the Ethics Commission exists to penalize public officials for exactly this kind of abuse of office," said Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch. "The state should not spend another penny defending former Secretary Gessler’s position that elected officials have the right to use public money for personal and political gain."