Groff names former Sen. Grossman to Independent Ethics Commission seat

Dan Grossman (Photo/Colorado Senate)
Dan Grossman (Photo/Colorado Senate)
Senate President Peter Groff on Tuesday appointed former state Sen. Dan Grossman of Denver to a seat on the five-member Independent Ethics Commission. Grossman, a Democrat, will replace former state Sen. Sally Hopper, a Golden Republican, who completes her inaugural term on the commission at the end of June.

“The challenge is really to establish [the commission] as an unbiased, thoughtful and deliberative body,” Grossman said. “The way they handled the Coffman complaint was good,” he added.

The commission last month dismissed a complaint against U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican who was charged by an ethics watchdog group with having conflicts of interest when he was secretary of state two years ago. It’s the only complaint the commission has ruled on since being established in 2007.

While it’s up to Groff to name a commissioner, the appointment must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote Wednesday on SR 17, making Grossman’s appointment official.

Grossman, currently the regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said his experience on the Legislative Ethics Committee will inform his tenure on the commission — “assuming I get confirmed,” he noted. The legislative panel was “challenging because there was very little legal clarity about the role of the committee,” Grossman said. The ethics commission offers the opportunity for “more certainty and more consequences for the breaches of ethical conduct,” he said.

A three-term representative of House District 6, Grossman was the youngest House minority leader in the state’s history before winning the Senate District 32 seat in 2002. He declined to seek a second Senate term in 2006.

“The challenge [for the ethics commission] is twofold,” Grossman said. “One is to bolster public confidence that there are eyes on government officials, and the other is to clarify how these issues can be addressed in a nonpartisan way — and that’s difficult in the hyperpartisan atmosphere of politics. One of the big challenges will be to demonstrate we’re able to rise above partisanship in ways that only have the laws and ethics in mind, and not partisan agendas, and not anything else.”

Established when voters approved Amendment 41 in 2006, the commission is responsible for investigating ethical violations and enforcing ethical standards for public officials and government employees. The amendment requires an equal number of Republicans and Democrats on the commission, so Gov. Bill Ritter must appoint a Republican to fill the other term expiring next month. Ritter’s initial appointment, Evergreen lawyer Nancy Friedman, a Democrat, served as chairwoman of the commission until last month.

The speaker of the Colorado House and chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court appointed commissioners to full, four-year terms in 2007, but the governor and Senate president’s appointments were initially for two years so that terms on the commission will be staggered. Once in place, the four appointed commissioners picked a fifth commissioner to represent local government on the ethics panel.