Eye on the IEC

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Colorado Ethics Watch has been actively monitoring the activities of the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (“IEC”) since the IEC first met in 2008. To provide an independent source of information about IEC activities, Ethics Watch has compiled this chronology of IEC activities and related documents submitted Eye on the IECto or produced by the IEC. Ethics Watch will update the information regularly so please check back often.

Next meetings.  The next meeting of the IEC will be at 9:00 a.m., Thursday, March 3, 2016 in the Carr Judicial Center, 1300 Broadway, Denver.

The official website of the IEC can be accessed through this link.

February 9, 2016 -  The IEC holds its regular monthly meeting, starting with introducing the new Executive Director Dino Ioannides, who will start on March 1. After brief discussion with the requestor, the Commission unanimously approves Advisory Opinion 16-01, approving travel expenses paid by a nonprofit for international travel for a Department of Revenue employee. Commissioners briefly discuss in public sessionthe status of the State Audit, which is set for the February 23, 2016 Legislative Audit Committee hearing, but specific discussions of the report and questions from state audit staff was conducted in executive session. The IEC then notes the requestors in Advisory Opinion 15-12 (Aurora City Councilwoman who is a state employee) asked to be deferred to the March monthly meeting. In conjunction with the discussion of that request on March 3, Commissioners state they will consider and accept public comment and legal analysis regarding the home rule ethics provisions of Article XXIX of the Colorado Constitution and how home rule municipalities are adopting and enforcing ethics codes outside of the constitutional scheme & IEC jurisdiction. Written submissions will be accepted before the March 3 meeting and public comment may be made in person at that meeting as well. The IEC then considers proposed revisions to the complaint form used and Ethics Watch Senior Counsel Peg Perl gives comment on the proposed changes on behalf of Ethics Watch. The Commission defers adoption of the new complaint form (and revisions to the IEC Handbook) until after the state audit report and possibly the resolution of the Colorado Supreme Court case. Finally, the Commission notes that it will be re-posting the job description for the soon-to-be-vacant 5th Commissioner position (local government). After discussion in executive session, the IEC votes unanimously to find new Complaints Number 15-31, 15-32, 15-33 and 15-34 nonfrivolous and direct IEC staff to start an investigation. All these complaints are related.

January 28, 2016 - The IEC names Constantinos "Dino" Ioannides as its new Executive Director.

January 26, 2016 - The Colorado Supreme Court hears oral argument in Independent Ethics Commission v. Colorado Ethics Watch, regarding whether the district court can review the IEC's decision to dismiss a complaint as frivolous.

January 21, 2016 - The House of Representatives votes 57-8 to approve the nomination of attorney April Jones (U-Greenwood Village) to replace former Rep. Rosemary Marshall (D-Denver) as the House-appointed member of the IEC.

January 4, 2016 - After cancelling its December meeting, the IEC reconvenes for monthly business without its former Executive Director. The Commissioners spend at least 90 minutes in closed executive session with representatives from the Office of State Auditor discussing the draft audit report. The IEC then considers Advisory Opinion Request 15-12 regarding a state employee who has been elected to Aurora City Council. In discussions of the different ethics code adopted by Aurora, the Commissioners ask for further legal argument and public comment regarding home rule jurisdictions and the requirments for "opting out" of Article XXIX requirements and IEC jurisdiction. The Commissioners will further consider this specific request and the larger question at the February 8 meeting. The IEC then unanimously votes to circulate a proposed revised complaint form for public comment and possible adoption in February. The afternoon is spent in executive session discussing approximately 20 complaints recently filed which are still required to be kept confidential, and interviewing candidates for the vacant Executive Director position.

November 6, 2015 - The IEC meets with thirteen complaints, one advisory opinion request and one letter ruling request on the agenda. It is publicly announced that Executive Director Amy DeVan will resign effective December 28. The IEC approves a job announcement for the executive director position. The IEC unanimously approves Letter Ruling 15-01, regarding accepting donations for door prizes, and Advisory Opinion 15-11, authorizing an employee of the Department of Revenue to accept a grant from the Open Society Institute to travel to Jamaica for a conference on marijuana legalization. The IEC dismisses three of the thirteen complaints as frivolous and takes no action on the remaining ten.

September 21, 2015 - The IEC conducts its monthly meeting with two staff members from the Office of the State Auditor in attendance as observers. During the staff report, ED Amy Devan states the only new complaint filed has been asked to be put on hold by the complainant. The requestors in Advisory Opinion 15-09 have similarly asked for the Commission to defer its handling of that request until the next meeting. ED Devan also described a number of training presentations recently completed and plans for further orientation sessions with local elected officials through Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Counties, Inc. The IEC then discussed Letter Ruling 15-01 which was filed by a state employee but in her capacity as a member of a government IT employees association hosting an annual conference. Commissioners generally approved the request which would allow door prizes donated by vendors at the conference and agreed to review a revised version of the written response at the next meeting for final approval. The Commission discussed its draft FY17 Budget request which ED Devan stated would "mirror 2016 in every respect." Final budget submissions are due October 30 and the IEC expects Chair Leone and ED Devan to appear before the Joint Budget Committee in November. ED Devan then presented ideas for updating the complaint form on the IEC website, including removal of some open ended questions that appear to be causing confusion in citizens regarding the range of remedies available to the Commission. A revised draft form will be presented at the next meeting for approval and will most likely be used starting January 2016. Finally, the IEC updated the search for the 5th "local government" commissioner and planned to start talking with a current applicant and continue to accept additional submissions from interested individuals. The IEC moved into executive session to receive legal advice regarding pending litigation in the Denver District Court and the Colorado Supreme Court. No discussion or action regarding either suit was conducted in public session.

September 11, 2015 - The IEC files an extraordinary petition with the Colorado Supreme Court seeking to overturn Judge Jones' July 21 order denying the IEC's motion to dismiss in Colorado Ethics Watch v. IEC.

August 3, 2015 - The monthly meeting of the IEC is held telephonically. The Commission unanimously approves Advisory Opinion 15-10 which allows an employee of the Department of Health Care Policy & Financing to accept travel to participate in a national conference from a professional association (of which Colorado is a dues-paying member). After executive session discussion, the IEC voted 5-0 to dismiss newly filed Complaint 15-10 as frivolous and outside the IEC's jurisdiction.

July 24, 2015 - The IEC holds an emergency executive session telephonically to discuss Judge Jones' July 21 order denying the IEC's motion to dismiss in Colorado Ethics Watch v. IEC.

July 21, 2015 - Denver District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones denies the IEC's motion to dismiss Ethics Watch's complaint for judicial review of the decision to dismiss its complaint against Elbert County Commissioner Robert Rowland. Order.

July 10, 2015 - The IEC meets telephonically and approves Advisory Opinion 15-07 allowing the Executive Director of the Department of Corrections to accept a scholarship of travel and conference expensers for a conference.

July 7, 2015 - The IEC holds its monthly meeting and approves Advisory Opinion 15-08 allowing the Executive Director of the Department of Corrections to accept travel expenses to an international conference from an nonprofit organization. The Commission also considers Advisory Opinion 15-07 from Corrections regarding travel to a conference hosted by vendors and plans to vote on a revised opinion at a future meeting. Commissioner Rosemary Marshall makes a public statement regarding the last month's discussion of Commission re-appointments and her consultation with legal experts that the Chief Justice and IEC can move forward with appointments after Commissioenr Marshall was asked to continue to serve. Executive Director Amy Devan confirmed that the Chief Justice has reappointed Commissioner Matt Smith and that a vacancy annoucement for the 5th Commissioner has been made public. During the staff report, ED Duran demonstrates the new recording equipment purchased with the SIPA grant and explains that recordings will in the future be placed on the Commission's website for public listening after meetings. Ethics Watch makes a public comment urging the IEC to seek budget funding for live-streaming of meetings as well as re-establishing additional IEC staff in the budget if such cannot be accomplished with just an Executive Director. The IEC also discusses an advisory opinion submitted by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC) asking whether they may pay for travel for legislators serving on an interim committee for a fact-finding trip. The Commissioners ask for more research and plan to review a draft response to this request at the next meeting. The Commissioners also accept by vote of 4-0 (Smith recused) to accept a stipulation to resolve Complaint 14-16 (Steve King). Finally, the Commissioners discuss possible proactive position statements and research regarding indemnification of government employees, IEC enforcement process, the definition of "frivolous", and the IEC's ability to issue public statements on dismissed complaints. Future meetings will discuss some of these issues.

June 29, 2015 - The IEC announces the vacancy to be created by the expiration of Commissioner Bill Pinkham's term. Vacancy announcement.

May 27, 2015 - Ethics Watch files suit against the IEC, challenging its dismissal as frivolous of Complaint 14-07 against Elbert County Commissioner Robert Rowland. Complaint.

May 11, 2015 - In two short hearings, the IEC approves stipulations to resolve Complaints 15-01 and 15-02 against officials of the Town of Eagle. The IEC approves Advisory Opinion 15-02. In a 3-2 vote, the IEC dismisses Complaint 14-07 (Rowland) as frivolous under IEC Rule 7G1.

May 7, 2015 - The Colorado Court of Appeals affirms the Denver District Court's ruling that upheld the IEC's June 2013 finding of ethical misconduct by then-Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Decision here.

April 10, 2015 - The IEC elects Bill Leone as Chair and Bob Bacon and Vice-Chair. The IEC dismisses five new complaints as frivolous. The IEC approves Advisory Opinion 15-04, allowing a Department of Corrections employee to file a patent in his own name of an invention created within the scope of his employment, with the approval of the Department. The IEC approves two advisory opinions, 15-05 and 15-06, authorizing travel by Colorado cannabis regulators to conferences.

March 8, 2015 - The IEC monthly meeting is mostly administrative items with no advisories on the agenda. During the staff report, Executive Director Amy Devan explains that the IEC received a grant from the State Internet Portal Authority to purchase recording equipment and set up live-stream audio of public meetings. However, the IEC needs to ask the legislature for spending authority to start this work as early as next month. The Commission then discusses the FY 15-16 budget which was tabled by the Joint Budget Committee recently. Chair Rosemary Marshall and Vice Chair Matt Smith engage in a lively debate about whether or not the IEC needs the laptops for commissioners (to avoid printing all meeting packets and reference materials) and whether the IEC should allow its 2nd staffer position to be defunded. Chair Marshall was especially concerned that Vice Chair Smith communicated separately to the JBC Chair that the Commission did not need these items which were unanimously adopted by the whole Commission. ED Devan will appear at the JBC for a comeback hearing on 3/13/15. The IEC then approves the 2014 Annual Report for publication. Next, the Commissioners unanimously adopted Postition Statement 15-01 which adjusted the gift limit under Article XXIX to $59 for the next four years. Finally, after executive session discussion, the IEC votes 5-0 to lift the stay on Complaint 14-07 (Rowland) and instruct the IEC staff to perform a "preliminary investigation" under IEC Rule 7F to determine whether or not the complaint is frivolous. This complaint was filed in March 2014 by Ethics Watch.

February 13, 2015 - The IEC's monthly meeting is held with all Commissioners present. In the Staff Report, Executive Director Amy Devan explains how the General Assembly authorized reallocation of salary savings to make-up for deficit in IEC's FY2015 legal services budget by not filling the vacant second employee position at the Commission this year. The FY16 budget request includes authorization for both employee positions and an increase in legal services budget, but has not yet been considered by the Joint Budget Committee. Commissioners also discusses the IEC's document retention policy, including complaints deemed frivolous (which are still confidential). Next, IEC hears from the requestor and approves Advisory Opinion 15-01 (travel expenses paid by foreign government). Commissioners then revisit and approve Advisory Opinion 14-22 (acceptance of gifts) by a vote of 4-1 (Commissioner Leone dissenting). In executive session, the IEC considers four complaints, which are kept confidential unless and until determined to be non-frivolous. In public session, Commissioners unanimously vote to find Complaints 15-01 and 15-02 (Town of Eagle) nonfrivolous and direct IEC staff to inform respondents and start an investigation. The IEC finds Complaint 15-03 dismissed as frivolous and outside IEC jurisdiction. Finally, Commissioners vote 4-0 (Commissioner Smith recused) to find Complaint 14-16 (Steve King) nonfrivolous and direct IEC staff to inform the respondent and start an investigation. Commissioner Leone again raised informally the idea of holding a public hearing in the summer about prospective advice concerning travel and interactions between statewide officials and certain organziations such as the Republican Attorney General Association and the Democratic Governor Association.

January 15, 2015 - The IEC held a telephonic meeting with one public agenda item and then executive session for legal advice. In public session the Commissioners discussed the recent denial of a supplemental budget request for the IEC by the Joint Budget Committee on a 3-3 party line tie. Commissioners decided to resubmit the request with a letter addressing concerns raised by JBC Chair Kent Lambert (R-El Paso County) at the hearing regarding allegations that the IEC has exceeded its authority under Article XXIX. The IEC then went into executive session for legal advice regarding pending legislation and other specific matters required to be kept confidential by state statute.

January 5, 2015 - After no meeting in December, the IEC held its first monthly meeting of 2015 with Commissioner Pinkham participating by telephone and the other four Commissioners present. The report by Executive Director Devan updates the Commission regarding a project to digitize IEC records (which is almost complete) and her submission of a micro-grant application to the State Internet Portal Authority for funding to start live-streaming and online archive of IEC meeting audio in 2015. Continued funding for online audio is included in the IEC's FY2016 Budget request. ED Devan also reminds the Commissioners that 2015 is the year that the Commission must modify the $53 gift limit for inflation - a process that will begin next month and hopefully be completed in the first quarter of this year. The IEC then re-considers Letter Ruling Request 14-03 (solicitations/contributions to police benevolent fund) based on additional information provided by requestors. A revised Letter Ruling 14-03 is approved by a vote of 5-0. Commissioners next unanimously approved the final version of Advisory Opinion 14-20 (outside employment of CDOT employee). The IEC discusses new Advisory Opinion request 14-22 (gifts received by Deputy DA) but defers until next meeting after more information was gathered from the requestor. Commissioners approve Advisory Opinion 14-23 (travel vouchers to county employee) by a vote of 5-0. After general discussion of a supplemental FY2015 budget request to cover legal expenses and the new FY2016 budget submission, Commissioner Leone distributes a series of New York Times articles about fundraising and lobbying connected with partisan associations of attorney generals, governors, and similar officeholders. He proposes the Commission consider issuing a proactive position statement on the topic and further discussion of this idea will occur at the next monthly meeting.