Judge set to examine Denver DA ethics suit

This week a district judge is expected to receive arguments in a lawsuit targeting Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey over his office’s decision to not pursue a criminal case against a Colorado state senator.

The suit is being brought by Colorado Ethics Watch (CEW), a watchdog group that wants the district attorney to launch a criminal investigation into a complaint that the organization filed in April 2007 claiming that Republican Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs violated a state law that prohibits public representatives from taking monetary gifts and using them toward official state business.

The judge is expected to receive written arguments from both sides by Friday, and will then be able to decide whether to hold a hearing or make a ruling.

CEW claims that McElhany violated the law when he accepted a gift of $2,700 from a GOP political committee to pay for ColoradoSenateNews.com, the official Web site and communications hub of the state’s Senate Minority Office. CEW also accused McElhany of failing to properly report the $2,700 gift used to fund the Web site.

The district attorney’s office, however, announced that a review of the Colorado Ethics Watch complaint found no evidence warranting criminal charges.

In response, the group sued the district attorney for not pursuing the case. Denver District Court Judge Norman D. Haglund has called for written arguments from both sides.

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.