Secretary of State Scott Gessler “breached the public trust for private gain” when he used his office discretionary fund to pay for a trip to a Republican lawyers conference in Florida, the state ethics commission ruled Thursday. He also violated state ethics law when he kept $117.99 left in the fund last year, rather than submit receipts that he said accounted for hundreds of dollars more for unreimbursed mileage for state business. The commission penalized Gessler twice the amount in dispute, about $1,400, minus about $1,278 he chose to repay last month (to avoid any appearance of wrongdoing, his lawyer, David Lane, said). The precise amount will be published in the final order Tuesday. Gessler issued a written statement after Thursday’s ruling accusing the five-member bipartisan commission of being out to get him.
“As we said from the start, I’ve had grave concerns about this tribunal’s ability to be fair and objective,” he stated. “Every attempt we made to expose the truth and the facts in the case were met with resistance or rejected outright. Instead of impartial, engaged commissioners, I faced a group of my political adversaries. In fact, two commissioners have donated to my political opponents, and they both unsurprisingly ruled against me.”
Records show the two Democrats on the commission, Dan Grossman and Rosemary Marshall, had made either $50 or $100 campaign contributions to former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, whom Gessler beat in 2010, and Gov. John Hickenlooper. Gessler is considering a run for governor.
Grossman donated $500 to Ken Gordon’s 2006 run for secretary of state. Gordon plans to run for the office again next year.