Voters may have elected new officials for the Denver City Council in June, but only now are members of the public able view council lobbying records from over a year ago.
Both dailies in the Mile High City have recently penned articles regarding disclosure reports showing gifts and freebies council representatives received in 2006–an apparent change from previous disclosure periods where archived newspaper articles do not seem to mention such perks.
But one fact left unmentioned in both articles is that while Denver has very strict ethics regulations, the act of disclosing gifts lags behind other laws in transparency. Colorado Confidential reported in May that Denver City Council members are required to file gift reports annually, a complete eight months after the year being reported has ended.
That means if a council representative were to dine with a lobbyist in January of 2006, they wouldn’t have to report it until August of 2007–more than a year after the meal in question.
Such practices are not the status quo for other officials. The city of Fort Collins and the state legislature mandate that reports be filed quarterly, for example.
When metro ethics experts were asked about the problem, they whittled down to the act of disclosure:
“It seems like where they’re lacking is in the actual disclosure mechanism, because there’s not a good system in place for timely disclosure that the public can access,” Nunez says. “To have a good strong ethics code you need to have the disclosure as well, otherwise the public doesn’t have adequate information about what’s happening.”
Michael Henry, Staff Director of Denver’s Board Of Ethics, also described how the law works:
While predictable council freebies like event tickets and travel expenses are being reported by the mainstream media, the backbone of the issue remains: public records aren’t getting to the public in a timely manner.