Ethics board says Denver’s chief building officer used his public position for private gain

The board unanimously found Scott Prisco in violation of several rules in the city Code of Ethics.
3 min. read
The Denver skyline seen from the 7S apartment building on 7th Avenue in Capitol Hill, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Denver Board of Ethics found that Scott Prisco, Denver's chief building officer, violated three sections of the city's Code of Ethics in a unanimous vote Monday. The violations were for conflict of interest while employed, use of public office for private gain, and using city resources for outside employment or business activities.

The vote was a response to three complaints from former employees of Denver Community Planning and Development. The complaints say that Prisco intervened in the city's permitting process for a property at 2650 W. Asbury Ave., a project overseen by Hip Homes, LLC, a company owned by Prisco's wife.

According to the hearing notice sent by the ethics board, Prisco emailed city employees using his city email on both May 10 and May 16 requesting that they file paperwork for the project. On September 12, a contractor on the site called Prisco and put him on the phone with a city inspector on the property after the inspector said he could not continue the inspection because the materials he needed were not there. After the phone call, the inspector finished the inspection and reported that he felt intimidated by the situation. The board also noted that Prisco tweeted an advertisement for Hip Homes on Oct. 11. The tweet included the Denver logo and his title with the city.

Prior to the violations, Prisco obtained an advisory opinion from the board of ethics in 2018 that allowed him to hold both his position with the city and a position with Hip Homes. In that opinion, the ethics board advised Prisco not to use city resources or business hours to conduct business for Hip Homes. The board also instructed Prisco to not use his position to arrange anything for Hip Homes and not to mention his employment with the city in advertising for Hip Homes.

The Denver Board of Ethics -- a five-member board appointed by the mayor and city council -- releases opinions and makes findings, but cannot take disciplinary action. That responsibility falls to Laura Aldrete, the executive director of community planning and development. According to a statement emailed to Denverite, Prisco will no longer be allowed to engage in any private business that requires permits from the city.

"It is extremely important to me that we at Community Planning and Development do our jobs with integrity and skill. While I believe these were honest mistakes made by Mr. Prisco, I want to assure the public and our staff that we have taken corrective actions to prevent this type of situation from arising again in the future," Aldrete said in the statement. "Chief among these is that Mr. Prisco has been prohibited from engaging in any further private business that would require permits and inspections in the City and County of Denver while he is serving in the role of building official. I appreciate the Board of Ethics' careful deliberation on this matter."

The ethics board will release a written decision on Prisco's case. According to Lori Weiser, the executive director of the Board of Ethics, those written decisions are usually released within several weeks, but important opinions sometimes take longer.

This story was updated to include information from documents obtained from the Board of Ethics. 

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