In response to a complaint filed in October by Colorado Ethics Watch, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission announced today that it will move forward in investigating whether Secretary of State Scott Gessler misappropriated state funds for personal or political use when he was reimbursed for travel to a Republican election law training event and the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August. The Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) determined the complaint is “not frivolous” and directed the Commission staff to investigate.
Colorado Ethics Watch provided evidence that Secretary Gessler submitted reimbursement forms to the state for the Florida trip, and misrepresented the nature of his visit on those official forms. Specifically, Secretary Gessler attended the Republican National Lawyers Association election law training in Sarasota, Florida on August 24 and 25. He then traveled to the Tampa, Florida area on August 26 to spend the week there during the Republican National Convention, although it is assumed he was not a delegate to that convention. The Secretary of State requested reimbursement for his attendance at these events, certifying that they were not “personal or political.”
On October 22, Colorado Ethics Watch filed a supplement to its complaint with the Independent Ethics Commission, asking whether Secretary of State Gessler improperly received payment of $117.99 representing all funds remaining in the Department of State discretionary fund at the end of Fiscal Year 2012. Documents show that the Secretary received $1400.10 at the end of Fiscal Year 2011, outside of the IEC's one-year statute of limitations.
“We are pleased that this state’s Ethics Commission will investigate this important public corruption case,” said Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch. “Public funds are not for personal or political use. We expect the Ethics Commission to conduct a thorough investigation and make it clear that abuse of public funds will not be tolerated in Colorado.”
Ethics Watch has also asked the Denver District Attorney to investigate the possible criminal implications of the Secretary’s conduct. The District Attorney has not advised Ethics Watch of the status of its inquiry.