Complaint says Denver councilman’s fundraiser violated campaign finance rules

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo
CIty councilaman Albus Brooks. "Move along to where?" A community meeting at EXDO, Dec. 15, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  right to rest; camping ban; homeless; exdo; forum; community meeting; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;

City councilman Albus Brooks in 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A nonprofit group has filed a campaign finance complaint alleging that Council President Albus Brooks improperly used city staff’s time and his social media accounts to promote a campaign fundraiser event, which he denies.

Brooks is hosting a “39th Birthday Bash & Campaign Event,” a March 10 party with drinks and a so-called silent disco. Attendees will pay $10 toward Brooks’ re-election fund for council District 9.

The complaint, filed by the nonprofit Strengthening Democracy Colorado, focuses on the promotion of the event. It argues that one of Brooks’ city office staffers improperly worked on planning the event during “working hours.” It also calls into question his use of the Albus Brooks: Denver City Council President Facebook page.

“This is (public resources) supporting a campaign for a candidate individually,” said Jason Legg, a co-founder of the nonprofit. His group is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that says it’s focused on government integrity.

Brooks, however, said that he kept a clean division between the city government’s resources and his campaign.

The councilman acknowledged that a staff member created the Facebook event for the page on Brooks’ professional Facebook page. But he said that she had clocked out and taken paid time off for the short time she was working on the event.

Still, the complaint argues that the social media posts on both Brooks’ and the city’s official account were “contributions in support of a candidate’s campaign.” His social media posts were automatically embedded on his page on Denver’s official website. He has since removed the feeds from the page.

Brooks said that his social media accounts weren’t connected to the city government. “My Facebook and Twitter are not on city dime. We don’t use city resources for that,” he said, describing the complaint as “pretty small ball.”

The event also was briefly promoted in a tweet from the official City of Denver account. “Count us in!” it declared while sharing Brooks’ invitation to the event. (Brooks’ original message didn’t mention that it was a campaign event, so it may have been an oversight.) The tweet was later deleted.

A screenshot of the City of Denver's deleted tweet about an Albus Brooks campaign event.

A screenshot of the City of Denver's deleted tweet about an Albus Brooks campaign event.

What’s next?

The complaint was filed with the Secretary of State’s office, which forwarded it to the Administrative Office of the Courts, where an administrative law judge will review it. (That’s standard practice.)

“Throwing the book at him is not what we’re looking for, but we would like Councilman Brooks to reimburse the city for whatever the public resources that were used,” Legg said. He also wants Brooks to be fined.

Brooks is confident the complaint will be dismissed, he said, and he suggested it would have been easier to have a conversation than to go through the process.

About 70 people have said they’re going to the event. The host committee includes former mayor Wellington Web and Wilma Webb; House Speaker Crisanta Duran; Rep. Dan Pabon; developers Bernard Hurley, Andrew Feinstein and Jason and Ellen Winkler; and others.