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April 12, 2006 08:00 AM UTC

Stengel Gets Ethics Spanking

  • 19 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols

From the Rocky Mountain News:

Former House Minority Leader Joe Stengel “discredited the reputation” of the legislature with his “excessive” billing for work in the off session, including while vacationing in Hawaii, an ethics committee has determined.

The Littleton Republican charged taxpayers for 240 out of 247 non-session days last year “without regard for the consequences of his actions,” the committee wrote in a formal letter filed Tuesday.

The committee also recommended the legislature tighten per-diem rules to prevent similar problems in the future. The current statute allows lawmakers who are in leadership to collect $99 a day in the off session when handling legislative matters, but the rule contains no other specifics.

“A member of the General Assembly must call upon his or her integrity and ethics in making a determination whether to claim per-diem compensation,” the letter states.

“However, in common practice, one phone call in a day does not constitute a day’s work.”

?

The five-member committee also questioned whether it was “hypocritical” for Stengel to file a formal elections complaint against Rep. Buffie McFad-yen, D-Pueblo, for collecting per diem while speaking in favor of Referendums C and D, when he collected per diem while campaigning against the tax measures.

The Stengel letter will appear in the House journal, a permanent record of events at the legislature.

Stengel told the Associated Press he was glad the investigation was over. “Now that this is behind me and the body, we can move on,” he said.

The House Ethics Committee earlier voted 3-2 to dismiss a complaint against Stengel, citing the vague per-diem rules and noting it was nearly impossible to reconstruct Stengel’s calendar from last year.

Comments

19 thoughts on “Stengel Gets Ethics Spanking

  1. That strikes the right note, I think.  Now we need to get the House to follow through and make those rules.

    I could claim a lot more hours if checking in with my e-mail counted as a day’s work.  Heck, for that kind of extra cash I’d tie myself to a Blackberry most of the time…

  2. The ethics committee should have given the entire house a spanking for not re-writing those rules a long time ago.  Why would the rules be so vague in the first place?

  3. So why did the Dems go so easy on Stengel? The committee vote was 3-2, with Weissman voting with the R’s to give Stengel an ethical pass. Surely Weissman was told by leadership how to they wanted the initial hearing stage to go. Why did they decide to let him off the hook so easy when it’s an election year and the R’s had already claimed the scalp of Hanna (deservedly so)?

    Why take the high road with a guy like Stengel? Why in an election year?

  4. So why did the Dems go so easy on Stengel?

    …………….

    Remember Romanoff’s comments in the first day or two?

    I’d say it’s because they’re ALL prone to doing it.  I doubt that Stengel’s the only one to have done this – only he’s been pretty egregious about it.

  5. That’s not it, the official record is pretty clear – Stengel is the only one doing this. They refernced in that committee just how egregious Stengel’s actions were. His actions are literally without precedent.

  6. The rule or policy was vague because it was intended to allow some flexibility you simply can’t design into more explictly written processes.  Secondly, these are ladies and gentlemen who want to believe they can trust each other to do the rihgt thing even if they disagree over issues and look at the word through different lenses.  The system worked fine. 

    Then along came Joe.  I don’t know why he did what he did.  Other people I’ve known in the past who have done similar dumb things usually did so because they felt the “people ” owed them something extra for doing what they aspired to do.  Maybe Joe thought that.  Nobody knows.

    Whatever. He should resign his seat.

  7. David – you might have missed this point, but the only reason Stengel got in any trouble whatsoever is the novelty of it.  It probably won’t be a law (laws require a Governor’s signature, and that violates the principle of independent branches of government), but we do need rules to deal with this kind of thing.

    Cliff – maybe it wasn’t a rule prior to this because no-one stepped up to the plate to violate the principle of the thing before this…

  8. That’s not it, the official record is pretty clear – Stengel is the only one doing this.

    …………………

    Yeah, that must be it.  I’m sure that not a single, solitary politician has ever been dishonest.

    Bridge for sale!  Bridge for sale!

  9. Stengel’s photo, sitting arrogantly in his chair, while House members surrounding him were standing, hands on hearts, saying the Pledge, tells me all I need to know about Mr. Stengel.

  10. I agree that rules should be better spelled out for this for future reference. I have no doubt per diems have been abused in the past, but it would pretty hard to abuse the system more than Stengel did.

  11. TBM and BMR, I wonder why the Dems gave him a pass as well. I would have “drilled” him given the chance.

    You think perhaps it was a “gentleman’s” agreement, becasue each team knows that this is just the tip of the iceberg down on Cap HIll. Lot’s of potential embarassment for both????

  12. “these are ladies and gentlemen who want to believe they can trust each other to do the rihgt thing”

    Now only if they could trust the citizens too, rather than passing more nannyist laws.

  13. Whatever legalisms were used to keep him out of prison, the fact remains that Joe Stengel knowingly and intentionally abused his leadership position to rip off Colorado taxpayers by claiming per diem payments for time that he was actually on vacation in Hawaii. The man is a crook. A jury of Colorado taxpayers would have surely sent him to jail. The committee has tarnished the reputation of entire legislature by letting him go unpunished.

  14. I think colddawg probably has called this one right.  My guess would be that there was a trade off at some point.  I would guess Stengel getting a pass was a trade off for Paccione.  Just a guess, but the timing seems to be about right.

  15. GR
    Don’t do the equivalency thing with me here. Party roles aren’t equal. Republicans sell the ideals. The Democrats sell the rationalization for whatever low, half conscious thing you wish to pursue.

  16. Don’t do the equivalency thing with me here. Party roles aren’t equal. Republicans sell the ideals. The Democrats sell the rationalization for whatever low, half conscious thing you wish to pursue.

    Gee… that’s not biased at all.

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