How Ethical Is the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission?

September 3 2009, 1:29 PM
State officials are expected to lead by example. It's their duty to painstakingly follow the laws meant to protect our democracy from those who would abuse the government to further their own interests. But too many times in recent months officials have decided, for reasons unknown, that they don't want to meet in public, particularly if a news reporter might be around. So they simply close the doors and meet in private, as Colorado State University's governing board did when it selected former Denver chamber CEO Joe Blake as its new chancellor. Now comes another controversy: The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission, a body established to ensure that lawmakers around the state are acting ethically, closed the door on its meetings illegally, conducting business that the public had a right to witness, according to a Denver District Court judge. Besides completely embarrassing the commission---and raising questions about whether its members deserve the trust of law-abiding Coloradans---the lawsuit, filed by The Colorado Independent, forces the commission to turn over notes and recordings of the internal meetings. "Colorado law assumes the public's business will be conducted in public," says Independent editor John Tomasic. "This is most important when we're talking about the state ethics commission, which routinely wields the power to hold other public officials to account."