Two ethics complaints against state lawmakers moved forward on Monday, one to a formal hearing and a second to another round in September.
The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission, which is charged with reviewing violations of the state’s ethics law, also known as Amendment 41, gave state Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins until September 11 to hire attorneys to defend her on an ethics complaint.
The complaint stems from a February town hall she hosted at CB Potts in Broomfield. Marble invited Broomfield residents to the restaurant to hear about oil and gas development. Extraction Oil and Gas LLC picked up the tab for the gathering, which including two free bar drinks and an appetizer buffet.
That appears to be a violation of state ethics law, according to Sarah Hall Mann of Broomfield, who filed a complaint, claiming that Marble accepted a gift from Extraction that exceeds the state limit on gifts to lawmakers.
That state limit is currently $59, which is annually adjusted for inflation. Based on research by The Colorado Independent, the event cost likely exceeded $500. Neither Marble nor Extraction Oil and Gas LLC media spokesman Brian Cain, who according to Mann paid for the event, have responded to multiple requests for comment on the complaint.
Marble is among the most ardent defenders of the oil and gas industry at the state Capitol. Last week, the International Business Times reported that she and other lawmakers received “a trove” of emails from residents, begging Marble and other lawmakers for help in combating odors amidst concerns for their children’s health. The IBT reported that few got responses from their lawmakers, but the lawmakers regularly met with oil and gas company representatives.
Marble did not attend Monday’s hearing. She was represented by an attorney from the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Legal Services, which has in the past refused to defend lawmakers on similar complaints.
A second complaint, against Rep. Kim Ransom of Lone Tree, will move on to a formal hearing at a date to be determined. The commission decided last year to investigate the complaint against Ransom, who accepted a “Gold Pass” valued at $600 to the 2016 Western Conservative Summit, also an amount that exceeds the state’s gift limit, according to the complaint filed by Chuck Bucknam, who lives in Ransom’s district.
Ransom attended the 2016 Summit to accept an award from the nonprofit Principles of Liberty organization, which is not affiliated with the Summit or its organizer, Colorado Christian University. She was one of ten lawmakers who received that award. The gold pass was given so that lawmakers could receive free meals and attend special Gold Pass events.
The state ethics law gives an exception on the gift limit to speakers at events, but neither Ransom nor the other nine lawmakers were at the Summit as speakers. It’s unknown whether any complaint was filed against the other nine lawmakers, since the Commission does not disclose complaints unless those complaints have been determined to be “non-frivolous.” In addition, the statute of limitations for filing a complaint is one year, and that year expired at the beginning of July.
Last weekend’s Western Conservative Summit featured a Saturday night presentation from Principles of Liberty, recognizing nine Republican lawmakers, eight from the House and one from the Senate, with its annual award. The award is based on how legislators vote on bills that address individual liberty, personal responsibility, property rights, free markets and state versus federal powers.
Ransom is represented by attorney Mark Grueskin, who may be better known for representing Democrats in legal cases. Ransom also did not attend Monday’s hearing.