New Colorado Senate president spends $4,300 on retreat |

New Colorado Senate president spends $4,300 on retreat

DENVER, Colorado – The new president of the Colorado Senate is defending his decision to spend $4,300 in state money on a team-building retreat for Democratic lawmakers, calling it a “minimal investment” in professional development.

But president Brandon Shaffer said he made a mistake by excluding Republican lawmakers from the two-day retreat.

He said he organized the retreat partly because of complaints about committee chairs being disrespectful to the public and other lawmakers. All committee chairs are Democrats since the party controls the Senate as well as the House.

“I thought it would be beneficial if we were in an environment where we were going to air dirty laundry to keep that in-house,” said Shaffer, D-Longmont.

The retreat was reported in The Denver Post on Tuesday.

Senate Republicans said Shaffer should have used Democratic Party funds since Republicans were excluded.

Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, repeated his charge that Democrats are acting like Republicans before they lost control of Congress.

“Unemployment is the highest in nearly a generation, state workers are being furloughed, and we’re writing checks for team-building seminars? Wow,” Penry said.

Shaffer said the retreat was so effective, “I wish the Republicans had been there, frankly.”

Details on the retreat followed news that Shaffer’s successor, Peter Groff, paid his staff $30,000 in bonuses before he left office.

Shaffer said he awarded a $5,000 bonus to one of his staffers, who he said made only $8,000 over the past six months and got no state benefits.

Shaffer acknowledged it’s a “sensitive subject” but said he authorized the bonus because the assistant did a good job.

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