Colorado’s independent ethics commission found a Republican state senator, Vicki Marble of Fort Collins, violated ethics rules because of her involvement in an event paid for by an oil and gas company last year.
The commission, which is in charge of reviewing violations of the state’s ethics laws, fined Marble $2,242 for speaking at an event for constituents to learn about oil and gas developments in Broomfield. Unknown to constituents, however, was that the event that was paid for by Extraction Oil and Gas LLC.
By a 3-2 vote, the commission found this violated a constitutional limit on gift contributions, as was first reported by ColoradoPolitics.
Marble, who is one of the Capitol’s most ardent supporters of the oil and gas industry, said she would appeal the decision. A final opinion may create clarity for lawmakers who want to speak at sponsored events, she said.
“Until then, the 99 other legislators will have to wait too, just like me,” Marble told The Colorado Independent. “We’ll all get more direction of where we’re allowed to go or not to go.”
Marble’s attorney, Marcy Glenn, of the Denver law firm Holland & Hart, said she prefers to wait for the commission’s opinion, which is expected on or after the commission’s next meeting on May 7, before deciding whether to appeal to the Denver District Court.
Marble moderated a town hall event at CB & Potts in Broomfield on Feb. 15 last year to discuss proposed oil and gas developments in the area. She was listed as a host on a flyer for the event. Extraction, who was not listed as an event sponsor, paid $1,121.18 for the room, drinks and food, according to an attorney representing Marble. Sarah Hall Mann of Broomfield, who saw an Extraction employee pay for the bill, filed a complaint on May 1, 2017.
The commission determined this gift exceeded what was a $59 limit — now $50 — set out in Article 29 of the Colorado Constitution. Marble did not know that Extraction would be paying the meeting expenses, according to an attorney’s September response to the complaint. Marble’s only involvement, the attorney said, was to float the original suggestion for the event and to moderate it.
On July 20, 2018, Glenn took over defending Marble’s case. Since then, the state has been billed a total of $47,838 to pay for this representation, according to the Office of Legislative Legal Services.
Mann, who filed the complaint, said the meeting was advertised as a town hall for Marble to engage with constituents on the issue of oil and gas development. Mann said it should have been framed instead as an oil and gas event.
Mann told The Colorado Independent: “As long as there is transparency and that constituents and citizens know what the event is before they choose to attend, I don’t see it being an issue.”