You’ve been listed: Ethics Watch posts Top Five worst lapses of 2009

Who made Colorado Ethics Watch Top Five ethics scandals list of 2009? Gubernatorial GOP frontrunner Scott McInnis, for one, who gets listed for the behind-the-scenes likely illegal pre-campaign campaigning he did to set up his run. Also find Colorado State University, which made the list for its decision to hand the newly created position of chancellor to one of the position’s creators, Board of Governors Vice President Joe Blake.  The closed-door hearing in which the board decided to effectively make Blake Chancellor violated Colorado’s open meetings law. The full list after the jump.

Scott McInnis (screengrab: 9 News)

Scott McInnis (screengrab: 9 News)

Ethics Watch Names Colorado’s Top Five Ethics Scandals of 2009

Ethics Watch’s second annual Top Ethics Scandals list does not attempt to rank these scandals in a particular order — they are all outrageous.  Based on news reports, egregiousness of the situation, and the timeline of attention each situation received, the following are Ethics Watch’s Top Five Ethics Scandals of 2009:

1) Gubernatorial Quasi-Candidate Scott McInnis Leaves Damning Voice Mail: As early as May 2009, former Congressman Scott McInnis (R-Grand Junction) was expected to run for governor, but had not publicly announced his candidacy nor filed the appropriate registration. However, McInnis was busy making campaign calls, indicating he was running for governor, had his team in place, and was putting together a 527.  Under pressure from Ethics Watch and the media, McInnis quietly filed his paperwork for candidacy on May 19, but questions still remain as to the activities he was conducting prior to registering as a candidate, and potential coordination with a 527, which would violate state election laws.

2)  CSU Board of Governors Hands Plum Job to One of Their Own in Secret Meeting: As vice president of the Colorado State University (CSU) Board of Governors, Joe Blake participated in a decision to create a chancellor position separate from the president position.  Mr. Blake formally submitted his application for this very position on April 29.  On May 5, the CSU Board of Governors had a closed-door executive session meeting during which they decided that Mr. Blake would be the sole finalist for the chancellor position.  That meeting was ruled to violate Colorado Open Meetings laws.  CSU paid three media outlets $19,000 in legal fees and released the tapes of the closed-door session.

3) The Independent Ethics Commission’s Troubles with Transparency: The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) was created to be the premier ethics body in Colorado.  Instead of setting an example of how a state commission should act, the IEC spent much of 2009 unsuccessfully defending itself from allegations that it was illegally operating in secret.  In May, the IEC was ordered by a Denver District Court Judge to release records subject to an Ethics Watch open records request and to pay Ethics Watch’s attorneys’ fees.  In September, another Denver District Court Judge ruled that the IEC was in violation of Colorado’s open meetings laws, and ordered the IEC to release records from the meetings to a media outlet.  And finally in December, a third judge ruled that the IEC debated an advisory opinion in secret, again violating open meetings laws.

4)      Gale Norton’s Questionable Oil Industry Work: In September 2009 the Department of Justice issued subpoenas as part of an investigation into Bush administration Interior Secretary and former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton.  The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating whether Gale Norton used her position in the Interior Department to benefit Royal Dutch Shell by allowing her department to enter into three potentially lucrative amendments to oil leases with Royal Dutch Shell on federal land in Colorado, then took a job as an adviser to the oil-shale division of Royal Dutch Shell.

5) Representative Pommer’s Campaign Finance Violations and “Bad at Paperwork” Defense: Representative Jack Pommer (D-Boulder), a candidate in the 2008 general election for the Colorado House of Representatives, missed filing four separate campaign finance reports between October 2008 and January 2009.  After media exposure of the delinquency, Pommer filed his report on April 6, 2009, and claimed that he was simply “bad at paperwork.”  The Secretary of State’s office imposed fines of more than $4,000 on Pommer.

The full report, including the actions Ethics Watch took in response to the lapses, can be found online at

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Joseph Boven

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