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Keith King wants to use his expense account to hire a ghost writer

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City funds will aid Keith King in his farewell messages. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • City funds will aid Keith King in his farewell messages.

What to do with an extra $3,000?

For City Councilor Keith King, the answer is: pay for research for several "editorials" he plans to write about his years on Council.

In a Nov. 21 letter to his colleagues, King says he won't seek re-election in April and wants to compose articles about city issues with help from his city-funded expense account — which ordinarily funds community events and official travel.

King, who runs Colorado Early Colleges, will soon end his 25-year political career, which began with service on the Cheyenne Mountain School Board from 1991 to 1996. He also served in the state House of Representatives for eight years and the state Senate for four years before being elected to City Council in 2013.

Given his time in elected office, it's hard to imagine why he'd need help with research on the topics noted in his letter, which include the city retaining ownership of Colorado Springs Utilities, City Council committees fostering accountability and "public service at its best, serving the citizens of Colorado Springs."

King notes the editorials will "express my gratitude for working with each of you" and explain how the mayor and Council, once at odds, now function "in a more collaborative way."

"To accomplish these articles," King writes, "I will need some research help. I'm asking to expend up to $3,000 of my remaining money in my constituent account for research and accuracy in writing these articles."

King says he'll hire an outside contractor, for which competitive bids aren't required; only work valued at more than $25,000 requires competition.

Asked in an interview why he needs help, he says, "I want to make sure it's factual. It's not information that's readily available."

Councilors are allowed $4,000 each this year for expenses. Guidelines permit spending on preparation, printing and distribution of official informational newsletters and other mailings to constituents. The stipulation is that the mailings cannot endorse a legislative position, or urge the public to vote for or against a candidate for any office or a ballot question.

Given that, we asked King how he can justify spending on research for an editorial about a possible ballot measure that would require 60 percent of voters to approve a sale of all or part of Utilities, a measure he's sponsoring.

He says in an email, "I have not spent any money on any research for any possible ballot issue, nor will I. In fact, I am getting some new cooperation from Utilities and the city so at this time I will not be needing it. If I need it, it will be very limited."

King says in an earlier email to the Indy that his 750-word columns will be posted on his personal website and will be available "to anyone who wants to publish them."

Records show King has spent only $150 this year from his account — for admissions to the governor's State of the State address in January, the mayor's State of the City address in August and the upcoming State of the Region speech by El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark.

Although his colleagues' official approval is not required, a consensus of members have given King the nod on his editorial project.

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