City Council split on how to handle a recommendation from a citizen panel that ruled Council President, center back row, violated the city's Code of Ethics.
We just received this statement from Richard Skorman:
Again, I want to apologize to the Sutherlands and to the City of Colorado Springs. My intent that day was to identify myself as easy to find and not to use my position on Council for a special privilege. I appreciate that after careful research and deliberation, my colleagues on Council rightfully dismissed this complaint so we can move forward.
————————-ORIGINAL POST 5;18 p.m. SEPT. 25, 2018———————————-
On a vote of 5-3, Colorado Springs City Council voted to dismiss an allegation against Council President Richard Skorman of violating the city's Code of Ethics.
The motion, made by Councilor Bill Murray, called for dismissal based on insufficient evidence upon which an administrative law judge was unlikely to uphold a violation, and in the interest of justice.
Voting to dismiss were Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, Murray, and Councilors Merv Bennett, Yolanda Avila and David Geislinger. Councilors Don Knight, Tom Strand and Andy Pico opposed dismissing the matter and said they preferred to send the allegation through adjudication, which they acknowledged could be expensive and time consuming. Strand suggested it was the only way for Skorman to "clear" his name. "We are cheating him in this motion for that opportunity," Strand said.
The allegation, submitted to the city on March 27 by Barbara Sutherland, alleged that Skorman arrived at the scene of a fender bender involving a woman he knows, and told Sutherland he could vouch for her. The woman, Madalyne Mykut, didn't have a drivers license. Sutherland alleged Skorman improperly asserted he was president of Council as if he was trying to push his weight around. Skorman has told the Independent
he cited his position as a way Sutherland could be assured of who he was and that he could easily be contacted.
You can read more details about the incident here in a story
in the Sept. 26 edition of the Indy
In any event, the five-member citizen Independent Ethics Commission agreed Skorman's actions were a violation of the city's ethics code, which bars officials from using their position to get special consideration, treatment or advantage.
However, councilors were deeply split on whether Skorman's actions truly rendered him with some special consideration or advantage.
Before we get to the details of councilors' positions, here's what Sutherland told the Indy
about the ruling:
"I’m incredibly disappointed in the outcome and even more disappointed that City Council completely ignored the 5-0 vote by the IEC. What is the point of appointing an ethics committee when they don’t vote in their favor? I’m very disappointed in the entire outcome. As a citizen, a voter of this city, I feel like City Council completely disregarded my case. And I believe they made a decision based on politics and not on the well-being of citizens of Colorado Springs. From my perspective, they were wrong. They voted wrong. I know in my heart of hearts he was guilty. I’m not sure I’m ready to sit and be quiet."
She declined to elaborate on what action she might take next.
Here's how Council members voted and why:
Knight: "Richard can accept the finding of the IEC [Independent Ethics Commission], and that would be the easiest way to put this to bed legally and publicly. We have five people out of five on the Independent Ethics Commission, independent, not members of of council, that we picked to be our conscience, and five of five of them are saying there was a violation. If we turn around and say we disagree with them, this is not going to die. I can see the headlines: Council protects its own."
Pico: "I've thought long and hard about it. You’ve got five members of IEC who came to the same conclusion for different reasons. It’s not a major thing to burn down the buildings over, but I cannot ignore that. I think there is grounds in there."
Strand: I couldn’t agree more with the comments Mr. Knight just made. When they’re unanimous in something and you don’t pay attention to that and now they’re going to go back to their families and wonder what contribution they’re making to this community. They did spend months on this report. Quite frankly, I think by not sending this to an administrative law judge [who has to] find clear and convincing evidence this code was violated, I don’t think [a judge is] going to make that finding. And then in public, it would clear his name. I’m not doing this to hurt him but to follow it through a process where the public thinks we treated Mr. Skorman as we would any other citizen. We are cheating him in this motion for that opportunity."
President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler presided over the discussion, with President Richard Skorman absent.
Avila: "There have been times Planning Commission has been unanimous, but I haven’t voted in that direction, because I come from a different perspective. It’s not fair to say we’re protecting our own. I’m going with what I see and how I read things. Based on what was said, I don’t see this as a violation of the ethics code. Richard was saying, 'Here’s my identification. Here’s how to find me.' He wasn’t trying to get anything free, special favors. I think it would be unjust to see this as a violation."
Bennett: "I feel that we’re making a mountain out of a mole hill. We have a Council member who identified himself thinking that would help. It was probably a mistake. He has apologized for it. Let’s move on. We have far more important things to deal with. I feel like this is a dead issue."
Geislinger: "Richard’s official capacity had nothing to do with interjecting to say, 'I know who she is.' He was offering to say this person in an auto accident, I know who she is. That’s not, in my opinion, and there’s no evidence anywhere, of special consideration, treatment and advantage beyond what's available to anybody else."
Murray: "We just had a five-member board look at it. We’ve got a gentlemen who said, 'I’m identifying myself.' He didn’t ask for special benefit. We’re taking this particular situation of an individual identifying himself and how does it become an ethics violation? The motion is to dismiss, because the preponderance of the evidence does not suggest he used his position to get favored treatment. It’s just not there."
Gaebler: "We are jockeying over the minutiae of a couple of words here and there. In my opinion I do not believe that there was any evidence that provided proof that he did anything contrary to our Council rules and ethical rules. I don’t believe that I owe them [IEC] anything. We are the ones that have to make that final decision."
Here's a link to the IEC decision