Ethics Group Wants Action Against State Minority Leader

The Denver District Attorney’s office is balking on a case that could land one of the state’s leading politicians in legal trouble. That’s according to a local ethics group that has called for a probe of Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany (R-Colorado Springs) and the legislature’s Senate Minority Office for alleged violations of state law.

The organization, Colorado Ethics Watch (formerly Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government), a nonprofit that monitors ethics throughout the state, is charging that Sen. McElhany violated the law by accepting money from a state political committee to pay for ColoradoSenateNews.com, the official Web site for the Senate Minority Office. On top of that, campaign finance reports are only adding to questions regarding how the office’s site was financed.

In April, Colorado Confidential reported on connections between ColoradoSenateNews and FaceTheState.com, a “free market news site” headed by Brad Jones, a former Republican consultant. When questions developed over how the the office’s Web site was funded, McElhany was reported to have stated in an Apr. 11 Rocky Mountain News article (PDF) that he used $2,700 in contributions from the Senate Majority Fund, a political committee, to pay Jones to create the Web page.

The only problem is that such an action is completely illegal, according to CEW’s director Chantell Taylor.

“The facts of this case are just so irrefutable that there should at least be some penalty, and if this doesn’t point to a violation then I certainly don’t know what would,” says Taylor, who claims that it’s unlawful under a state statutes for a public officials to use given money for official purposes, like building the minority office’s Web site.

Taylor also says she’s been in contact with Denver’s Deputy District Attorney Dick Reeve with little results, claiming that the DA’s office had said that there would be some kind of action on the case by September, which didn’t happen. Reeve did not return a request for comment.

“He’s just been putting us off all summer,” says Taylor. “It seems to me that they should be moving much more quickly or at least moving at all, and they haven’t been.”

Adding to the legal confusion are campaign finance records filed by the Senate Majority Fund in in April, after CEW’s call for an investigation, retracting the funds that were originally reported to have gone to Jones for work on ColoradoSenateNews. Now it’s currently unclear how the site was paid for, and who paid for it.

CEW also alleges that McElhany could have violated another law by failing to disclose the money from the Senate Majority Fund.

“He didn’t report it. He didn’t disclose it. So we think the violation is probably two fold, that it should’ve been disclosed and shouldn’t have been used for official purposes.” Taylor says.

Sen. McElhany has not returned a request for comment, and senate expenditures from April to the present reviewed by Colorado Confidential show no money going towards the Web page.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.