As readers know, there is an ongoing complaint before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission targeting former Gov. John Hickenlooper over travel expenses incurred in the course of his duties as well as certain private events which are subject to the state’s ethics laws passed by voters overwhelmingly in 2006. As we wrote a few weeks ago, the overwhelming majority–95 out of 100, in fact–of the allegations in the complaint from the so-called Public Trust Institute have already been dismissed. As the Colorado Sun reported in their Unaffiliated newsletter on Valentine’s Day:
The original complaint listed upward of 100 possible violations, according to the Hickenlooper campaign, but now only five remain in consideration and key elements are no longer in contention.
As the Public Trust Institute’s complaint against Hickenlooper has been steadily revealed as a nothingburger fishing expedition, questions are rightfully turning to the origins and motives of this relatively new organization responsible for filing the complaint. PTI was founded in 2018 as a “nonpartisan ethics watchdog” by former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty. This alone makes any presumption of nonpartisanship kind of silly.
The director of PTI is Suzanne Staiert, the former Deputy Secretary of State for Scott Gessler and a Republican state senate candidate. Staiert’s role in this organization and the complaint against Hickenlooper is particularly just-wow hypocritical, since her old boss Gessler was found guilty by the same IEC of violating the public trust for private gain–and spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on his unsuccessful legal defense, something Hickenlooper has been dubiously attacked for despite only spending a tiny fraction of what Gessler spent.
If all of this isn’t enough to convince you that McNulty’s so-called “Public Trust Institute” is nothing more than a poorly-disguised Republican hit group, here’s even more evidence that Frank McNulty’s sense of “ethics” is either skewed or nonexistent. Last week, as the Boulder Daily Camera reports, a judge ruled that the search for the new President of the University of Colorado, in which McNulty played a key role, violated the state’s open records law:
University of Colorado’s Board of Regents violated the Colorado Open Records Act when they refused to release a list of candidates for system president to the Daily Camera, according to a ruling issued today by Denver District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones…
The ruling comes nearly a year after the Board of Regents’ controversial presidential search process and hiring of President Mark Kennedy and nine months after the university system denied a records request from the Camera for the names and applications materials of the final six candidates interviewed for the job.
The secrecy surrounding the controversial search and “sole finalist” announcement of former GOP congressman Mark Kennedy was an enormous controversy that nearly sank Kennedy’s appointment. Public officials at all levels in Colorado demanded that the search process be re-opened after Kennedy’s unsavory right-wing record became broadly understood by the CU community. And as the Colorado Independent reported back in December, McNulty’s fingerprints are all over the scandal:
[Applicant Darrell] Kirch said Republican community appointees controlled his interview with the selection committee while members representing the university stayed mostly quiet. [Pols emphasis]
As he and three others interviewed by the committee told it, McNulty — who did not return inquiries for this story — and other politically active Republicans among the community appointees grilled them on how, if hired as president, they would handle ideological differences that could arise with or between regents. Kirch took “ideological differences” to mean “political differences,” and said he hesitated to answer. He said McNulty and others pressed him, and Republican and Democratic committee members debated in front of him about whether those differences matter in choosing a president.
But when it came time to respond to the revelations that the search process was politically skewed, McNulty said the real problem is that the information was leaked at all! Which makes sense since it was apparently McNulty’s job to make sure the search was politically skewed. McNulty’s contention that the leak was the problem and not the withholding of information is exactly what was rejected in Denver District Court last week.
And folks, is that a good look for the founder of an “ethics in government” watchdog group?
Far from it. For Frank McNulty, the rule is “ethics for thee, but not for me.”