What Pinnacol Assurance Bought for $318,000 in State Funds at Pebble Beach

January 2011

Last June, state auditors concluded that about 75 percent of the entertainment and travel expenses incurred by executives of Pinnacol Assurance during a business meeting at the swanky Pebble Beach golf resort in California were a violation of the agency's own policies. As a result, Pinnacol, which provides workers' compensation to many of the state's businesses, made Colorado Ethics Watch's list of top scandals in 2010—even before learning exactly how much the affair cost.

Finally, thanks to the efforts of reporters at 7News, who long ago filed a request for the total amount of the price tag, we now know Pinnacol spent more than $318,000 on the five-day golf outing during a time when many government agencies and schools were tightening their belts and making cuts. Receipts from the trip, made public only after a six-month court battle, show that Pinnacol employees not only lived high on the hog, but so did their relatives, racking up more than $53,000 in golf and spa charges, $21,000 in booze, and more than $5,200 for photographs capturing the memories.

Confounding the ethical issue, several board members (including President Gary Johnson and ethics chairwoman Debra Lovejoy) mingled often during the trip with the executives they were appointed by the governor to oversee. "At the very least, we deserve more responsible leadership," says Governor Bill Ritter, and state Senator Morgan Carroll, who led a committee overseeing Pinnacol's business practices, goes a step further, calling for the resignation of board members who went on the trip and the firing of Pinnacol CEO Ken Ross. Pinnacol claims it fought the release of the records "because, under its existing statutory framework, the company, although a political subdivision of the state of Colorado, is directed to operate as a private mutual insurance company" (via 9News).