A bill to clean up the state Independent Ethics Commission narrowly passed its first committee hearing Tuesday, despite opposition from Republicans and commission chair Bill Leone.
Leone testified he hadn’t seen the bill until recently and the commission had never discussed it publicly. That claim raised the hackles of the commission’s critics.
The commission’s attorney helped revise House Bill 16-1216, said Peg Perl of the nonprofit government accountability group Colorado Ethics Watch and bill sponsor Rep. Beth McCann, a Denver Democrat.
Discussing the bill was on the agenda for the commission’s meeting last week, a conversation that took place in a secretive executive session.
Before the hearing, at least one commissioner knew what was in the bill. Former state Rep. Matt Smith of Grand Junction submitted an undated two-page letter to the committee spelling out his concerns.
The biggest proposed change under the bill would allow the commission to hire its own attorney instead of relying on one from the Attorney General’s office. Currently the commission relies on the Attorney General for legal counsel, which critics say creates a conflict of interest, because the commission has jurisdiction over the Attorney General.
The bill to reform the commission passed on a party-line 6-5 vote.
Republicans voted against it, in part, because of Leone’s complaints that he hadn’t seen the bill, as well as concerns expressed by Smith, who argued the measure underestimated how much private attorneys would cost the commission.
Photo credit: Dannon Loveland, Creative Commons, Flickr.