On Wednesday the Denver Ethics Board debated whether Denver City Councilwoman CdeBaca could hire partner Kerrie Joy Landell even though the city’s ethics code discourages making family members staff.
Landell has been working pro bono as an aide for CdeBaca since she took office in June. The board will decide whether to recommend the hire, with caveats, Nov. 13.
“(A waiver) wasn’t officially issued and the decision wasn’t final,” said Lori Weiser, chair of the ethics board. “We want to consider what kind of protections or concerns can be addressed to shore things up if we grant it.”
In other words the ethics board can grant a waiver with conditions, like having another staff member directly oversee Landell. Lisa Calderón, CdeBaca’s chief of staff, told board members she would manage Landell to avoid conflicts.
“We recognize the optics of this, and we want to live our values of transparency and accountability,” CdeBaca said in a statement. “If people have been pleased with our work through the campaign and to date, then we are hopeful you will support this shift to compensate another beyond-qualified woman of color for her discounted labor and service in arrears and moving forward.”
CdeBaca said she offered the position to two other people before landing on Landell. There is no concrete protocol for how politicians hire staff.
One person on the ethics board said letting CdeBaca hire her partner would be inappropriate. Others did not.
The ethics code clearly recommends against the practice “to avoid favoritism by city officers, employees or officials to their immediate family members.” It can grant waivers, and “it is the intent of the council that the board of ethics not unreasonably withhold waivers,” the document states.