An investigation into how Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler uses his discretionary fund, prompted by travel to political events, won’t move forward because lawmakers deadlocked Tuesday on whether to proceed. Democrats have criticized Gessler for getting reimbursed $1,570 for travel to the Republican National Convention and a GOP election law training event in Florida, saying it was improper use of public funds. But they failed to get Republican support for a legislative investigation to advance, and their request failed on a 4-4 vote in the legislative audit committee. Democrats wanted state auditor to look at all expenses from Gessler’s discretionary fund since he took office in January 2011. It was a matter of maintaining the public trust, Democrats said. “It lowers the public trust of public elected officials when discretionary funds are used for political purposes,” said Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, one of the lawmakers requesting an audit.
Gessler, who has frequently clashed with Democrats over various election issues, already is being investigated by a state independent ethics panel and the Denver District Attorney’s office for use of his discretionary fund. Even if the audit was approved, officials would have to wait until those investigations were completed before they proceeded with an audit.
Gessler has said his use of his office’s discretionary fund is line with his predecessor’s practices and that he did nothing wrong.
Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, questioned whether an audit was cost-effective, given the ongoing investigations and how much it would cost, compared with how much money is in Gessler’s yearly discretionary fund. An audit would cost about $100,000, and Gessler’s discretionary fund is $5,000.