Holly Hansen, the now-former Director of the Brighton Chamber of Commerce
In the last few decades, the Adams County government has been working hard to unseat Jefferson County as the epicenter of cronyism and corruption at the local level in Colorado. In recent years, Adams County has really upped their game when it comes to scandal — at the same time that Republicans have been picking up new seats in county government — and it looks like they’re gunning for the mythical “corruption title” in 2017.
As the Brighton Blade reports, former GOP House candidate Holly Hansen (who is married to two-time Adams County Commissioner Erik Hansen) has resigned from her role as director of Brighton’s Chamber of Commerce because she may have gotten her hand caught in the ol’ cookie jar:
Greater Brighton Chamber of Commerce Director Holly Hansen resigned recently, after discrepancies were found during a financial audit, according to Larry Barnaby, the chamber board’s chairman.
Authorities have been contacted and the matter is currently under investigation, Barnaby said in a letter that went out to chamber of commerce members via email Wednesday, Jan. 4. [Pols emphasis]
The amount of the discrepancies was not immediately available, according to Charmaine Weis, board member and designated spokeswoman. Weis declined to release Hansen’s resignation letter because of the investigation. Authorities have said the investigation could take months, Weis said.
The board is taking the matter “very seriously” and will immediately implement added safeguards and procedures to “close any identified loopholes,” Barnaby’s letter said.
“Trust was broken and the board is deeply disappointed, but we are committed to protecting our members, the integrity of the Greater Brighton Chamber of Commerce, and will continue to bring value and service to our business community in 2017 and beyond,” the letter said.
According to the story in the Blade, nobody is publicly using words like “embezzlement,” but it’s not difficult to read between the lines here.
The Hansens are a prominent family in Adams County political circles, and Erik Hansen is rumored to have his eyes on running for higher office sometime soon (Hansen was re-elected to a second term in 2014). This latest scandal could become a significant story for a lot of different Republican candidates in 2018, because Adams County has trended recently toward the GOP. As Lynn Bartels wrote for the Denver Post in 2014:
Republicans won seats for sheriff, clerk, assessor and treasurer. Adams County next year will have a Republican in the state Senate for the first time since 1992. A Democratic state representative lost her seat.
“The sweep, it just blew me away,” said former Adams County Commissioner Marty Flaum, a Republican.
The election featured a kaleidoscope of factors favorable to Republicans, starting with a national climate that revved up the GOP. Mix in a changing county, a Republican ground game and publicity over local Democratic scandals — and the results stunned both parties.
“I think the big question is ‘Is this a momentary blip or does Adams County become a purple county?’ ” said Erik Hansen, a Republican elected to his second term as county commissioner. “If Adams becomes a purple county, that has huge implications for statewide politics. That means the Democrats can’t count on Adams County anymore.”…
…“I think the election,” Hansen said, “sent a pretty clear message that people want Republicans to have a greater role in governing.”
Adams County Commissioner Erik Hansen
One of the reasons that Republicans have been able to make gains in Adams County is because they could highlight years of corrupt practices in county government that included some well-known local Democrats (Hansen’s official bio on the Adams County website highlights his goal of ethics reforms). But since that 2014 election, Republican elected officials have been mired in their own scandals, including an ethics complaint involving the Adams County Assessor…who was publicly defended by none other than Erik Hansen. As we wrote in December 2015:
We’re hearing word of fresh controversy in Adams County, this time involving the county’s elected Assessor Patsy Melonakis (R)–spouse of longtime local judge Chris Melonakis. The story as we understand it is that Patsy Melonakis is refusing a routine annual internal audit of her office–a normal and necessary exercise that all other offices of Adams County government have already either completed or scheduled.
Obviously, this invites big questions about her transparency. But even more curious is that GOP Adams County Commissioner Erik Hansen is reportedly running cover for her as questions grow about the situation. In particular, Adams County Commissioners Eva Henry and Chaz Tedesco are questioning Melonakis’ decision to allocate over $150,000 of her budget to remodel her own office.
These are the sort of local controversies that can lead to significant political changes up and down the ballot for years to come. Upheaval in Adams County was a huge boost for Cory Gardner’s Senate campaign in 2014, and it has also benefitted the re-election efforts of Rep. Mike Coffman in CD-6. Conversely, Republicans in Jefferson County are still reeling from the 2015 recall of conservative school board members Julie Williams, Ken Witt, and John Newkirk.
For any candidates looking at statewide office in 2018 — and even for the fight over control of the state legislature, where Republicans maintained a one-seat majority in the state Senate because of Adams County — this story will have major ramifications.