Strict Colorado ethics rules may be back
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Colorado’s tough ethics rules for public officials may soon be back in force after the state Supreme Court ruled Monday that a lower court did not have the authority to delay them.
A Denver district court had ruled in May the rules went “beyond what was anticipated or intended” and issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement.
The Supreme Court said the lower court didn’t have jurisdiction in the case and it vacated the injunction. Opponents of the rules have two weeks to appeal before the high court’s decision takes effect.
The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the rules.
The rules are part of a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2006. They ban lobbyists from buying meals or gifts worth more than $50 for state lawmakers. They also ban gifts worth more than $50 to state employees or their families.
A group of not-for-profit agencies and individuals had challenged the rules on the grounds they restricted the flow of information and had a chilling effect on people who wanted to talk to policy makers.
Their attorneys, Doug Friednash and Jean Dubofsky, said they were discussing their next step with their clients.
The attorneys said they were “extremely disappointed” the Supreme Court didn’t address the merits of the challenge but only vacated the injunction.
Attorney General John Suthers, who defended the rules before the courts, called the decision “a very judicious approach.”
He said the ruling effectively states, “Let’s wait until this constitutional amendment starts being applied, then we can give more definite focus” on its merits.
“The problem, of course, is it gives very little direction to all these public employees out there,” Suthers said.
Gov. Bill Ritter’s spokesman, Evan Dreyer, agreed the ruling “is more procedural than substantive.”
Colorado Common Cause, an advocacy group that helped defend the amendment in court, declared victory.
“Big money fought the law, and the law won,” executive director Jenny Flanagan said. “Today the Colorado Supreme Court struck down the frivolous attacks on the voters’ ethics law. Today is a good day for open, honest and accountable government.”
Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, a Colorado Springs Republican, said he was unfazed by the ruling.
“It’s the law. We need to live with it. I didn’t come here for the free lunches,” he said.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has called it the toughest ethics rule in the nation.
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A Nov. 30 to Governor Polis and the Eagle County Commissioners from Beaver Creek Resorts Company – as well as the towns of Vail, Avon, Eagle and Minturn – requests a variance program which would allow businesses to remain open.