Gessler’s Ethics Scandal Cost Taxpayers (At Least) $122,000

FRIDAY UPDATE: Maddow Blog's Laura Conaway graphically summarizes:

If you're keeping track at home, the defense-to-fine ration is about 43:1, rounding down. Just for fun — because anything this expensive ought to be fun — my colleague Steve Benen charted the amount taxpayers have spent defending Gessler and the amount of the fine.

gesslerchart_lg2

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Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

A press release from Colorado Ethics Watch this afternoon:

Today, Colorado Ethics Watch released the results of an open records request to the Secretary of State's office, revealing that the outside lawyers who represented Scott Gessler in his defense before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) charged the state $122,218.10 through June 30, 2013.  Scott Gessler was unsuccessful in his attempt to avoid being held accountable by the IEC for misusing public funds for a personal trip to the Republican National Convention and a Republican lawyers' convention in 2012.

The legal bills for the defense of Scott Gessler nearly double the legal budget of the Ethics Commission itself ($69,525), and the appeal by Gessler’s attorneys will surely continue to cost taxpayers.

On June 19, the bi-partisan IEC entered its written findings and conclusions regarding Ethics Watch's complaint against Gessler for misusing public funds, ruling that Gessler had "breached the public trust for private gain in using public funds for personal and political purposes." The IEC levied a fine of $1514.88 in addition to the $1278.90 Gessler paid back on the eve of the hearing, the maximum amount allowed by law.  During the months before the hearing, Gessler's legal team filed numerous motions with the IEC – none of which were permitted by the IEC's rules but all of which were nevertheless considered by the Commission – and a failed lawsuit to attempt to block the IEC from even investigating the issues raised in Ethics Watch's complaint. Through a public records request, Ethics Watch has now learned the amount spent on the defense. In addition, the same lawyers are now handling Gessler's appeal, costing the state even more money.

"Our ethics system is extremely unbalanced when a state official who misused public funds is allowed to spend more than $122,000 on lawyers to defend the indefensible, while those who file the complaint are expected to prosecute the case without any taxpayer support whatsoever," said Luis Toro, Director of Ethics Watch. [Pols emphasis] "In this case, Scott Gessler was caught red-handed and even the best trial lawyer in the state could not get him off the hook. But the system we have now is not what the voters expected when they created the Ethics Commission. The legislature must step in and level the playing field so that Colorado citizens can exercise their right to ask the IEC whether a violation has occurred, and get an investigation without having to face the best defense the state treasury can buy. When the legislature convenes in January, they should hold hearings to find out how these lawyers were allowed to run up enormous bills with no oversight, and to change the law so that the ethics investigation process is no longer overwhelmingly biased in favor of the public official suspected of misconduct."

Click here for more documentation from Colorado Ethics Watch, including bills to the state from three law firms involved with Secretary of State Scott Gessler's unsuccessful defense before the Independent Ethics Commission. For new readers, this is the ethics commission case where Gessler was found to have "breached the public trust for private gain," and fined the maximum amount–roughly $2,800. That's $122,000 billed to taxpayers to protect Gessler from a $2,800 fine. An awfully bad return on investment, don't you think? 

Folks, why shouldn't Gessler, now a GOP candidate for governor, be expected to pay all $122,000 back?

12 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Old Time Dem says:

    Lawlis and Bruce offers  "Business law from formation through litigation,"Real estate transactional work, including purchase, lending, development and sale," and "Estate planning and business succession."

    MRD Law similary advertises itself thus:  "MRDLaw provides general legal advice and strategic counseling to startup through mid-sized companies, as these entrepreneurs and businesses navigate the litigation, arbitration, mediation, appellate, regulatory, ethics, government-affairs, public-policy, political, and public-relations worlds."  More than $70,000 billed..

    Kilmer, Lane & Newman "are concerned, above all else, with the protection of the civil rights and liberties of our clients."  Ahhh…that's more like it.  OTOH, they only billed about $10,000 total.

     

     

  2. Why not, indeed.

    My guess is, it's "in the line of official duty", so Gessler gets to bill the state regardless of the result. In order to rectify that, there needs to be a change in the ethics law to ensure that the state isn't liable for legal expenses for an individual who loses a review or case.

  3. Gilpin GuyGilpin Guy says:

    His photo looks like a mug shot.  Possibly the creepiest SOS in the history of Colorado.

    • BlueCat says:

      Yeah, he also looks like the guy who really did it on all those repetitive, predictable police procedurals even though the evidence points to someone else up until the last 5 minutes. You know, the smarmy initially super cooperative one who always turns out to be the totally cold blooded murderer.

      Miss the fact that ArapGoof isn't here to accuse me of accusing Gessler of being a cold blooded murderer or at least of being super mean to such a great guy. Maybe Moderatus could do the honors. 

  4. Diogenesdemar says:

    This diary would be a whole lot more fun if Saul, . . . er, . . . I mean, ArapaGOP, . . . . was still around here and getting paid to defend the indefensible — just sayin' . . . 

  5. ClubTwitty says:

    Saul Overnow would no doubt point out that Mr. Gessler had no choice but to piss away $122k in taxpayer money to fail to make his point, because of liberals like Pols and wouldn't allow him to moonlight.  So there.  Suckers.  Now STFU already and make him Governor. 

     

     

     

  6. Gilpin GuyGilpin Guy says:

    So what are the odds that the local paper writes up anything about this with the same vigor that they hit Hickenlooper for not being moderate enough?

  7. Albert J. Nock says:

    Anytime any taxpayer stands up to any elected official or bureaucrat, the taxpayer foots the bill.  Even in small town USA.

    Taking on city hall is nearly impossible because they have unlimited pockets…

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