Colorado lawmaker facing ethics complaint

Colorado’s ethics watchdog has decided to proceed with a complaint against Republican Rep. Kim Ransom of Lone Tree for allegedly violating the state’s ban on gifts to legislators after she accepted a pass valued at $600 to last summer’s Western Conservative Summit.

The Independent Ethics Commission on Monday identified Ransom as the lawmaker named in the complaint, a rare acknowledgment that the complaint has enough merit to investigate further. The commission does not release the names of elected officials or state employees against whom complaints have been filed unless it has decided to move forward. In its 10-year history, the commission has accepted few complaints for investigation and sanctioned even fewer lawmakers.

Last summer, the organizers of the Western Conservative Summit gave passes to 10 lawmakers, including Ransom, after each was recognized with an award for their conservative stances in the legislature. Not all accepted the passes, and those who did, sources tell The Colorado Independent, checked first with the state Office of Legislative Legal Services to make sure doing so would not violate the state’s 10-year-old gift ban.

The ban, part of the 2006 Amendment 41, says lawmakers, elected officials and state employees cannot accept anything valued at more than $59, a figure that is adjusted annually for inflation.

However, the law exempts the cost of admission to an event in which the recipient is a speaker or to which he or she has been invited to participate in a forum.

Charles Bucknam, a Parker resident, filed the complaint last August, about six weeks after the July 1-3 Summit. He alleged that Ransom accepted a pass both in 2015 and 2016, The statute of limitations has expired on the 2015 pass, but Ransom listed the 2016 pass in a routine disclosure of gifts and honoraria that lawmakers file quarterly.

Ransom declined to comment for this story.

Bucknam claimed in his complaint that Ransom did not disclose whether she had received the pass for participating in the Summit.  His complaint asks that Ransom be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $1,000, the penalty for violating the gift ban.

In December 2015, Bucknam filed a campaign finance complaint against Meghann Silverthorne, the president of the DougCo school board, who had decided to run for the state Senate. At the time, Silverthorne had both a campaign committee for her school board seat and another for the state senate seat, which is prohibited under state law.

Silverthorne was fined $400 last February for having two accounts. 

Ransom is expected to file a response to the commission in March, after which the commission will conduct an investigation.

The commission’s most recent investigation into a state lawmaker was in 2014, when the commission looked into a complaint against then-Sen. Steve King, a Grand Junction Republican, who had signed time cards showing he was working at the same time at Colorado Mesa University and the Mesa County Sheriff’s department. King’s conduct as a lawmaker was not part of the complaint.

King decided not to run for reelection later that year. The following January, he pled guilty to embezzlement from both the university and the sheriff’s office, was ordered to repay $2,431 to each organization, sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to complete 80 hours of community service.

Photo courtesy Colorado House of Representatives