A story from Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette takes another look at the highly dysfunctional post-divorce personal life of Republican Rep. Tim Leonard–who went to jail for contempt of court in December of 2016 over a conflict with his ex-wife stemming from Leonard’s refusal to cooperate on his kids’ educational matters. The story made Leonard look like a petty and vindictive ex-husband trying to make his former wife’s life as difficult as possible–to the point where the rare sanction of sending Leonard to jail for contempt was imposed by the judge.
Well folks, Goodland reports today that Leonard wasn’t finished messing with his ex-wife–and this one is offensive on multiple levels:
Few lawmakers, if any, can claim they can live on $30,000 per year, even with an allowance that pays a per diem for meetings outside of the 120-day session.
But Republican Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen recently made that kind of argument as he attempted to get his child and spousal support obligations reduced in a Jefferson County court. [Pols emphasis]
The full story is behind a paywall, but the short version is that Rep. Leonard, who works part-time as a Colorado lawmaker, attempted to claim that his part-time job in the General Assembly is sufficiently consuming in its responsibilities that he is unable to obtain a second source of income in order to meet his child support obligations. Leonard’s child support was based on an average of his earnings over the past decade, and apparently he’s not doing whatever he did before that paid more than being a legislator pays.
Fortunately, Judge Diego Hunt isn’t buying any of this and denied Leonard’s request to reduce his support requirements:
At the July 3 hearing, Hunt called Leonard’s decision to become a lawmaker, from the financial perspective, a “voluntary reduction in income.”
Leonard is not precluded from making a career decision that could help cover his family support obligations, Hunt said. “The court does find that (Leonard’s) decision to become a legislator was his good-faith decision, but the court does not find that this an objectively reasonable decision given the significant reduction in income. The court also concludes that (Leonard) can make significantly more from his commercial real estate business but chooses not to dedicate his time to his company and is therefore voluntarily underemployed. [Pols emphasis]
“The court also finds that (Leonard’s) career choice unreasonably reduces the children’s financial support,” Hunt said.
We’ve been sympathetic in the past to the low salary paid to Colorado lawmakers, and for that matter other officials like Governor and the constitutional offices where the prescribed pay in the law is considerably below market for the equivalent private-sector position. But in the case of legislators, under the current system they are not only permitted but expected to remain separately employed. Leonard is not a member of minority leadership in the House, and there’s just no reason why he would be any less able to work in the off-season than any other lawmaker.
So, there’s that. But the real problem here, of course, is that Leonard is attempting to make an excuse of the “burden” of part-time lawmaking in order to shirk his child support obligations. It’s very difficult to imagine a more politically toxic and self-inflicted problem for Colorado House Republicans. That Republicans re-appointed Leonard to the House Education Committee after he went to jail for violating court orders related to his children’s education is bad enough–now you’ve got the same Rep. Leonard trying to cut his child support obligations, an action that would directly hurt his kids, by asserting in essence that his service in the legislature is what’s more important.
More important than his kids. If that doesn’t deeply trouble you, you need to re-examine your own priorities.