Nonprofit Colorado Ethics Watch filed a formal request Thursday seeking information on the moonlighting plans announced by recently sworn in Secretary of State Scott Gessler and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. The Open Records request comes a week after revelations of the men’s plans sparked a steady stream of reports in the media on potential conflicts of interest, particularly surrounding the plan announced by Gessler, a high-profile partisan politics attorney, to work on a contract basis for his former firm. The Ethics Watch request will likely seek emails passed between the officeholders and advisers, including attorney general’s office staff.
From an Ethics Watch release:
Today, Ethics Watch sent Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests to State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and Attorney General John Suthers requesting information relating to the outside employment of Walker Stapleton while he is State Treasurer and Scott Gessler while he is Secretary of State, specifically any employment agreement or consulting contract.
“There’s no question that the planned moonlighting by Scott Gessler raises serious questions about conflict of interest, but we don’t want to lose sight of potentially serious conflicts possible in Walker Stapleton’s employment as well.” said Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch. “At the very least, the public has a right to know the terms of his arrangement. When employees who work for the Treasurer or Secretary of State want to get a second job, they need permission from their boss. In this case, the Treasurer’s boss and the Secretary of State’s boss is the Colorado voter. As the employers of Treasurer Stapleton and Secretary of State Gessler, voters deserve to know the terms of their outside employment arrangements.”
Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro last week told the Colorado Independent that, in Gessler’s case, legally binding attorney-client privileges surrounding his moonlighting plans would force the public to simply accept that the secretary of state will be acting in good faith and not giving leverage to the Hackstaff Law Group, formerly Hackstaff-Gessler, or its clients, but that the public will have no real way to ask questions or get answers to confirm he is acting in good faith.
“Assuming it’s feasible for [Gessler and Hackstaff] to carve out areas of law for [Gessler] to practice that don’t present a conflict with his responsibilities as secretary of state,” Toro said, “how is the public supposed to monitor that? That [challenge] is inconsistent with the idea of public oversight of public officials.”