The Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Patrick Malone breaks a potentially big story:
Public funds paid for some costs of Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s trip in August to the Republican National Convention and the Republican National Lawyers Association.
Documents obtained by The Coloradoan also reveal taxpayer dollars covered Gessler’s travel costs in July to Washington, D.C, where he met with conservative groups and elected officials.
Critics say Gessler’s use of public funds on the trip to Florida in particular at least violates Colorado fiscal rules that forbid expenditure for personal or political purposes and limit such spending to matters of state business, and at most could constitute a misdemeanor crime… [Pols emphasis]
At issue are at trip to Washington, D.C., in July that cost $1,105.17 from the Secretary of State Discretionary Fund, and Gessler’s request dated Sept. 6 for reimbursement of $1,452.52 from the same fund. About $1,200 of the reimbursement request was for lodging at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Fla., during the Republican National Lawyers Association conference preceding the RNC and airfare to and from the trip.
The reimbursement included an additional $422 incurred when Gessler booked a last-minute flight to return home Aug. 31, one day earlier than he originally had planned.
Coolidge said concern for Gessler’s well-being prompted the change in his schedule, but would not elaborate.
“We had a security issue that specifically mentioned the secretary,” he said.
It’s tough to know what “security issue” Gessler may have faced while attending the Republican National Lawyers Association, or the Republican National Convention immediately after. We do recall an amusing exchange between Gessler’s staff and attorney Mark Grueskin over Gessler’s “security” while traveling in Florida, but we’re shocked to see this news that there really was a security problem for him. Why wouldn’t that have been reported?
In today’s Coloradoan story, Gessler’s spokesman justifies these trips in general, the first to speak at a press conference for the controversial True the Vote poll-watching organization, then to Florida for the Republican National Convention, as “meeting with constituents, county clerks, lobbyists, staff and legislators to discuss state business.”
The first question: how can traveling to Florida to speak at a meeting of Republican lawyers, right before that parties’ convention, reasonably be considered “state business?” What about staying in Florida for the RNC, and using state-reimbursed airfare to return home–to say nothing of this so-called “security issue” that prompted additional expense and reimbusement? At best, the justification for these taxpayer reimbursements to Gessler seems perilously thin.
And at worst, Gessler may have broken the law.