Ethics Watch releases top five 'ethical failures' of 2011

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Douglas Bruce, cause of many an election problem.
  • Douglas Bruce, cause of many an election problem.

Ethics Watch, a nonprofit group that calls out illegal maneuvers in Colorado elections, just released its 4th Annual Ethics Roundup.

Included are Colorado's top five "ethics failures" over the last year. Colorado Springs, perhaps unsurprisingly, made the cut. In fact, given the long list of goof-ups made by the city clerk and city attorney in 2011, Ethics Watch was unable to choose just one to highlight.

But the story of Douglas Bruce's Reform Team, which dodged reporting requirements during the City Council elections, stood out. Ethics Watch specifically pointed to an aspect of that scandal as the pinnacle of the Springs' election woes.

Here's what happened: About a month before the April election, the Independent wrote about Bruce's antics. Following that article, Ethics Watch called on the city to fix the situation. Instead, the city embarked on a long (and somewhat comical) legal fight in a thus-far vain attempt to make the state enforce the city's own election laws. It was this prolonged battle that earned special recognition from Ethics Watch.

The Independent was the first to report on the scandal, and the only local news source to cover it consistently. It continues to drag through the courts.

Read on for more on the year's troubling election law violations:

Colorado Ethics Watch Releases 4th Annual Ethics Roundup
Report Highlights 2011’s “Top Ethical Failures” in State Ethics


DENVER — Colorado Ethics Watch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit legal watchdog group, today released Ethics Roundup: Top Ethical Failures of 2011, the organization’s fourth annual report highlighting Colorado’s public officials, agencies and municipalities who have either committed ethics violations or shown significant lack of judgment that places their behavior in the top tier of ethical failures in the state in the past year.

“Only by paying attention to the actions of our government agencies and officials, identifying ethical lapses, and shining a light on them will we be assured to have what Colorado voters have demanded — transparent and accountable public leaders,” said Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch.

In its annual effort to round up the year in ethics in Colorado, Ethics Watch honed in on the largest controversies and qualified them as the Top Ethical Failures of 2011. The most egregious of ethical failures took place in Adams County, in the Secretary of State’s Office, and in Colorado Springs, where multiple examples demonstrate a consistent lack of regard for ethics rules, laws and values. The other two ethical failures — by former Jefferson County Commissioner Kevin McCasky and by an organization now called WAIT Training — shine a light on the kind of corruption and undue influence that take place in government every day.

• Adams County Meltdown: From the Quality Paving scandal, to a corrupt county assessor and abuse of power in the sheriff’s office, Adams County was the unquestioned epicenter of ethics problems in Colorado during 2011. These ethical failures caused voters to demand reform.

• Gessler in the Tank: Secretary of State Scott Gessler reduced a campaign finance fine for the Larimer County Republican Party in spite of its clear negligence in failing to file disclosure reports, then compounded the ethical failure by offering to personally help the group raise money to pay off the fine.

• Colorado Springs Sues to Avoid Enforcing Its Own Laws: Colorado Springs’ first municipal election under its new “strong mayor” system revealed a city incapable of enforcing, or sometimes even understanding, its own election laws. In fact, Colorado Springs government actively fought against transparency when it refused to enforce its own newly adopted rules.

• Golden Parachute: After submitting his resume for a highly paid position at the Jefferson Economic Council, Jefferson County Commissioner Kevin McCasky voted to approve a $400,000 grant, an increase of $20,000 over the previous year, from Jefferson County to that organization.

• WAIT Not Worth It: An August Westword story by Andy Kopsa raised serious questions about how an abstinence-only sex education group was able to work with members of the State Board of Education to circumvent state laws against such programs, and later received federal dollars through the state despite scoring the lowest of all applicants on Colorado’s grant evaluation rubric.


Ethics Watch compiled the report by reviewing news reports, campaign finance records, state audits and documents, emails, and other disclosure forms. Ethics Watch’s legal experts analyzed this information for violations of state laws, regulations or ethics rules.

Designed to bring public attention to the matter of government accountability, this is the only report of its kind in Colorado. The full report, including Ethics Watch actions and litigation on these issues, is available on the Colorado Ethics Watch website at www.coloradoforethics.org.

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