State Ethics Commission will investigate complaint against Gov. Hickenlooper

The commission found that the complaint alleging Hickenlooper accepted several gifts including air travel has merit.

Governor John Hickenlooper shakes hands with legislators after his State of the State address, Jan. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Governor John Hickenlooper shakes hands with legislators after his State of the State address, Jan. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

The state’s Independent Ethics Commission on Monday unanimously deemed a complaint alleging Gov. John Hickenlooper violated a state law as “non-frivolous” and will be investigating further.

The complaint was filed by the Public Trust Institute and claims Hickenlooper made several ethics violations when he traveled on private jets and accepted excessive travel gifts, hotels and hospitality — violations of Amendment 41. The amendment prohibits government officials and employees from accepting gifts worth more than $59, according to the Gazette.

Independent Ethics Commission Executive Director Dino Ioannides said Tuesday the decision is one step toward an investigation. He said Hickenlooper has been notified and has 30 days to respond to the complaint, though he could ask for an extension.

Hickenlooper in a statement on Tuesday said the complaint was a “political stunt” attempting to influencing the upcoming election.

“Given the legal nature of the issue, we will not be commenting on the specifics of the allegations, but we’re confident this will be resolved quickly and in our favor,” Hickenlooper said in the statement. “We remain focused on doing the work that advances Colorado and improves our way of life.”

Ioannides said the decision on Monday also made the complaint public. After giving Hickenlooper an opportunity to respond, an investigation will take place, followed by a hearing and then a final decision. Ioannides said he wasn’t sure how long this process could end up taking.

The more than 170-page complaint was originally filed on Oct. 12 by Frank McNulty, who CPR reports is a former Republican Speaker of the Statehouse and one-time political rival of Hickenlooper. McNulty issued a release on Tuesday.

“The Commission has acknowledged that this is a significant matter and directly rebutted Hickenlooper’s attempt to brush aside evidence of his violations as a “political stunt,'” McNulty said in the statement. “The complaint against Governor Hickenlooper is based on clear written evidence that demonstrates a pattern of serious ethical violations.

“Keep in mind, these are only the violations our organization discovered with limited resources,” McNulty said in his statement. “Right now, Governor Hickenlooper should do the right thing, come clean about his mistakes, and face the consequences of his illegal activities.”

The violations are characterized in the complaint as “part of a pattern of illegal conduct repeated throughout Governor Hickenlooper’s term in office.”

“Governor Hickenlooper’s office has implemented a practice of redacting the Governor’s corporate flights and corporate travel expenses from public records to avoid detection while disclosing information about commercial flights and authorized travel expenses,” the complaint filed to the commission reads.