We reported yesterday on a letter from Democrats on the legislative Capital Development Committee, calling out Republican Treasurer Walker Stapleton over delays in issuing certificates of participation (COPs) for construction projects across the state–unnecessary delays that could cost real money, not to mention time as important road and other capital construction projects wait for their funding.
As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports today, Stapleton’s over-the-top reaction to this perfectly reasonable inquiry reflects a pattern we’ve seen establishing itself strikingly since Stapleton’s campaign for governor began: incompetence, finger-pointing, and then attempting to bury the underlying very real problem.
Pueblo Rep. Daneya Esgar, co-chairman of the capital project committee, sent a letter to Stapleton on Wednesday that said any delay in financing the long list of authorized state projects will mean higher costs and delays…
“In order to make the best use of public funds and get these critical projects started rapidly, the (financing) should be issued as soon as possible,” the letter says. It was co-signed by Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver.
The letter points to two events — a statement in June by the treasurer’s staff that the financing would be delayed beyond July 1 and legal advice to Stapleton’s office that funding might have to wait because of a pending lawsuit against the state by the Tabor Foundation, a group that first filed suit in 2015 against lawmakers. [Pols emphasis]
As Ed Sealover at the Denver Business Journal reports, Stapleton’s deputy Ryan Parsell practically hissed out the Treasurer’s office’s response–a response that would have required almost no revision to come from Stapleton’s gubernatorial campaign:
Stapleton’s office, however, characterized the criticisms as partisan attacks that are being made and publicized because he is the Republican gubernatorial nominee and is running for the open seat against Democratic Congressman Jared Polis. No transportation projects’ construction will be delayed because of the planned September issuance of the COPs, they said.
“There is no delay. The office is on track to issue these COPs in September,” deputy treasurer Ryan Parsell said. “The faked outrage from Democrats is nothing more than a poorly orchestrated and ill-informed political attack because Walker also happens to be running for governor.”
As Roper reported above, in the press release from House Democrats yesterday, the specifics of the problem that resulted in their letter to Stapleton were not ambiguous:
At a meeting of the CDC last month, nonpartisan staff notified the committee that the Certificates of Participation (COPs) that will launch hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for capital construction and transportation would not to be issued at the start of the fiscal year as originally planned, but would be delayed until a date uncertain.
In short, it was Stapleton’s own staff who told the committee that the paperwork wouldn’t be ready by July 1, and was also apparently being delayed by a legal opinion that a right-wing lawsuit based on the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) might interfere with the issuance of these bond-like certificates of participation.
In other words, the Democrats didn’t make this up. And that’s where it all takes a turn for the stupid:
[T]he treasurer’s office acknowledged that the lawyer who counseled Stapleton to delay financing had been fired and that the staff member who told the project committee that financing would have to be delayed “didn’t have the current information.” [Pols emphasis]
Got that, Colorado? Stapleton fired the lawyer who opined he had to delay the issuance of these certificates, and says now under scrutiny that Stapleton’s own staffer who told Democrats there would be a delay was wrong–and yet it’s Democrats who launched a “poorly orchestrated and ill-informed political attack?” Once you understand all the events along the way to this story, it’s painfully obvious that Stapleton once again is trying to cover for his own incompetence with a pre-emptive volley of bellicose finger-pointing.
Like we said above, this tactic of firing off an acrimonious press release in response to every legitimate point of inquiry or criticism, then being forced to concede that the issue was actually quite valid via their own attempt to quietly remediate, is becoming a distinct pattern for Stapleton and his communications team. When Stapleton attacked his Democratic opponent for selecting a running mate one day before the deadline to do so as a “rushed announcement,” the subsequent uproar over Stapleton’s failure to announce his own selection by the deadline made that attack look totally ridiculous. Now we have Stapleton laying into Democrats with election-year partisan rhetoric via his official proxy, while quietly conceding their point.
It’s a theater of the absurd, folks. Watch for it to keep happening.