Ethics Watch Submits Comments On Changes To IEC Procedures
Today, Colorado Ethics Watch submitted written comments to the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission on the IEC’s proposed amendments to its Rules of Procedure. The rule revision is the culmination of more than a year of effort after Ethics Watch and others called for reform of the IEC's investigation and complaint process. The revised rules will be considered at a public hearing on Wednesday, January 19.
Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro released this statement:
“The IEC has yet to become effective at enforcing ethics standards, largely because its original rules outsourced the investigative process to complaining parties while at the same time denying those parties the ability to conduct a meaningful investigation. The draft rules proposed by the IEC are an important step in the right direction. But the rules don’t go far enough in making the IEC complaint process reflect the voters’ intent that the IEC itself investigate and hold hearings on complaints. The commission should revise its rules to make its own investigation the centerpiece of the process, while eliminating discovery, motion practice, and other features of an adversarial, party-driven system. These changes should result in a set of rules that allows the IEC to function more as it was envisioned when voters demanded a focus on ethics in 2006.”
In addition to the investigation and hearing process, Ethics Watch addressed the proposed Rules' handling of jurisdictional issues. Ethics Watch urged the commission to reject a proposed rule that could be read as suggesting that the IEC has overlapping jurisdiction with the Secretary of State over campaign finance questions and also urged the commission to clarify or amend its proposed definition of "frivolous" complaints so that complaints ruled to be outside the IEC's jurisdiction would not necessarily be preserved as confidential. Under current practice those complaints are subject to public inspection. Ethics Watch recommends that only genuinely frivolous invocations of jurisdiction be held confidential under the state constitution's requirement that frivolous complaints not be released to the public by the IEC.
Ethics Watch has been engaged with the IEC since the commission's inception. Ethics Watch filed the first ethics complaint with the IEC, against then-Secretary of State Mike Coffman; the commission's handling of the complaint spurred calls for reform. More recently, Ethics Watch won a case upholding the public's right to access IEC records, and has remained positively engaged with the IEC through the commission's preliminary discussions on rules changes.
Update January 19, 2010: The Ethics Commission heard testimony and began its public discussion of the proposed rule changes. It then unanimously voted to postpone further discussion of the rule changes to the February 23 meeting.