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Collins faces censure, or worse

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A finding that City Councilor Helen Collins violated the city's ethics code could be the least of her worries.

That's because the Independent Ethics Commission's eight-page report — released Monday and due for City Council action at 1 p.m. Tuesday after the Independent's press deadline — labels Collins' actions as a felony.

That finding opens the door for Council to forward the matter to law enforcement, one of its options under the city's ethics code. If convicted, Collins would become ineligible to hold her Council seat.

Collins, who survived a recall in April, has maintained she's innocent of any missteps as alleged in a January complaint filed by the City Attorney's Office claiming she helped Douglas Bruce avoid paying a city judgment by serving as a conduit for the sale of Bruce's late mother's condominium in December.

While Collins didn't receive any money from the $140,000 sale, the ethics panel found the transaction was "wrought with fraud" and that Collins knew she was helping Bruce avoid paying the city judgment.

"The transfer of property to Collins was an attempt to circumvent this legal debt," the findings state. "This appears to violate Colorado Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act which provides for enhanced damages when a person transfers assets with intent to hinder, delay, or defraud creditors."

But the ethics panel says the "most disturbing aspect" of the matter is "the corruption shown by Collins placing her friendship with [Bruce] above her loyalty to the city." The report states that a title company employee testified that Bruce "asserted that Collins was indebted to [him] for helping her get elected to City Council... [and that] Collins agreed to this transaction at least in part because of past political favors."

"An elected official who allows a political supporter, in return for their political support, to use them in an attempt to circumvent the law has no place in government," the report states, adding that Collins' aid to Bruce in the transaction after he "announced her political debt to him makes her actions unconscionable."

The commission notes that not only is Bruce's attempt to "defraud a creditor" through the land transfer a felony, but Collins' intent to facilitate Bruce's alleged crime "is also a felony."

It's unclear how Bruce's scheme affects his probation revocation hearing in a 2011 tax evasion case in Denver District Court, set for July. He's accused of not reporting the condo transaction, a possible violation of his probation. Bruce notes the prosecutor didn't cite the deal as a felony.

"I committed no crime. Helen committed no crime," Bruce says, adding that the ethics panel's finding is full of "lies."

District Attorney Dan May couldn't be reached for comment about whether he'd consider charging Bruce and Collins with crimes associated with the land transaction.

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