Ethics Group Claims Denver Officials Ignoring Complaint

A local watchdog group is accusing the Denver District Attorney’s Office of stonewalling a criminal investigation into whether a state senator broke the law.Colorado Ethics Watch, a nonprofit organization that monitors government transparency issues throughout the state, is being ignored by the Denver DA’s Office, according to Chantell Taylor, the organization’s director.

Taylor filed a formal complaint with the DA’s office in April, accusing Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, and the Legislature’s Senate Minority Office of breaking a law that prohibits public representatives from taking monetary gifts and using them toward official state business.

CEW claims that McElhany broke the law when he accepted money from a state political committee to pay for ColoradoSenateNews.com, the official Web site and communications hub of the Senate Minority Office.

The complaint was filed after the Rocky Mountain News reported (PDF) in April that McElhany admitted to taking a “gift” of $2,700 from a committee called the Senate Majority Fund in order to build the Web site.

“It’s almost been a year and it’s absurd,” Taylor said, because she sees the case as a clear violation of the law. “The statutes specifically prohibit taking gifts of money for official functions. [Sen. McElhany] even used the word ‘gift.’ “

Muddying the waters are campaign finance records filed by the Senate Majority Fund in April, after CEW’s call for an investigation, retracting the funds that were reported to have been paid for ColoradoSenateNews. Now it’s unclear how the site was financed. McElhany has not returned calls seeking information regarding the site’s funding.

Dick Reeve, the attorney at the DA’s office in charge of the case, has not taken action on the complaint and has not returned CEW’s phone calls, according to Tyler, who says the last time she talked to Reeve was in August.

Reeve has not returned a request for comment, and although Colorado Confidential was able to contact a representative with the DA’s office, they were not able to provide information on Reeve’s case by press time.

There is no statute of limitations on the case, because a formal complaint has already been filed. But the DA’s office has no time limits on pursuing the case.

Read Colorado Confidential’s coverage of the Colorado Senate News investigation here.

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.

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