Amid questions over the very meaning of the word “ethics,” a Denver judge on Thursday rejected Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s request to block the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission from investigating his spending of office funds. David Lane, an attorney for Gessler, said the secretary of state would appeal District Judge Herbert Stern’s decision to the Colorado Supreme Court and expected the court to act within a week or so. That appeal could once again halt the ethics commission from releasing the report of its investigation at its Feb. 15 meeting. The commission had planned to release the report at its Monday meeting, but Gessler, a Republican, last week sued the commission and sought a temporary restraining order to halt its investigation and thus prevent release of the report.
In court, Lane argued that the commission had no jurisdiction to probe Gessler, who is accused of using office funds for political purposes by taking a trip to a Republican lawyers’ conference and piggybacking a trip to the Republican National Convention onto the same journey. Gessler is also accused of taking payouts from his office’s discretionary fund without submitting any receipts.
The Denver district attorney’s office has launched a separate criminal investigation of the spending, and Gessler’s attorneys argued the ethics commission’s probe would force Gessler to undergo a “mini star chamber” before any potential criminal proceedings and show his hand as a defendant.
Gessler’s attorneys also argued that the ethics commission’s probe would damage the secretary of state’s reputation and ability to do his job.