What Has Gessler Requested of Suthers?

Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been under fire for the last few days for complaining that his $68,500 annual salary (which pays about 33% more than the average $46,000 salary in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Labor) just isn’t enough and that he needs to work a second job with his old law firm — conflict of interest be damned!

Gessler has no doubt asked Republican Attorney General John Suthers for a private opinion on the matter (he can cite attorney-client privilege here, because the AG is technically Gessler’s “attorney”), but the public should know what question(s) have been asked. Gessler is essentially asking Suthers for a ruling that will affect his work schedule as a full-time elected official in Colorado, so the public absolutely has a right to know what is being discussed.

We don’t see how Suthers could possibly approve a plan that lets Gessler work for his former law firm, which deals primarily in election law. Gessler may say that he could be excused from any potentially conflicting cases, but that misses the bigger point about the Secretary of State’s office: The elected SOS should not have a second job with any employer who does business in Colorado.

Remember, the SOS’ job isn’t just dealing with elections — the SOS handles all manner of business regulations and registrations for companies of all different sizes in Colorado. With that in mind, we don’t see how Gessler, or any person serving as the Secretary of State, could ever be permitted to work for another company that does business in Colorado. The SOS has a direct conflict of interest with all of them.

So, what has Gessler asked Suthers? And how could Suthers ever, in any permutation of the ask, agree to allow Gessler to moonlight somewhere else?

23 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. droll says:

    I have a doubt.  You’re assuming or know?

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      That Suthers is “tasked” with helping Gessler on conflicts of interest, but that attorney/client confidentiality prevents him from talking about it.

      This seems like a “private opinion” to me.

      • droll says:

        My guess is that if Gessler would’ve consulted Suthers, Suthers would’ve told him that it’s political suicide at the very, very least.  The fact that it came out of Gessler’s mouth at all tells me that he didn’t consult anyone in any political office, in politics in general, or anyone with common sense.

        I’m unclear on why Suthers is being pulled into the discussion without some kind of tiny hint that any meeting has taken place.  Gessler hasn’t even put on big boy pants for long enough to cite precedent or the lack of a law.  He just said der-uh, I’m totally doing it, waa, waaaa, I’m doing it.

        I have plenty of access to attorneys in many bits of my professional life, in two cases they are on retainer just to give me advice, yet I didn’t consult any of them before hitting “post.”

  2. cybersoul says:

    And SO[B] Scott Gessler rode the wave of Teabagging anti-incumbent hysteria into office, when he never really was suited to pick up the phone, let alone pick up the call!

    I think the State needs to hang up on this guy!

  3. RedGreen says:

    is a conflict, then perhaps Gessler should increase his earnings by playing bingo — oh, wait

  4. SSG_Dan says:

    at a luncheon regarding military and veterans affairs. I wanted to attend with Rep Duran, but this affair is for club members only.

    I had a check for $250 that I was going to present to him so he could concentrate on the subject at hand for at least an hour.  

  5. JeffcoBlue says:

    It’s not okay, and there is no circumstance under which it would be okay. It’s time people stop comparing Gessler to “everyone else,” and realize that he has one of the most sensitive and trusted offices in the state. The SoS should not be in the service of ANYONE except the people of Colorado, because there is basically no economic activity in Colorado that is not affected by that office.

    The fact that Gessler wants to work at his electorally toxic law firm just makes it stand out more.

    I do think there would be less of a brouhaha if Gessler was teaching at DU or something like that, though. Gessler has made the issue glaring enough that I expect it will result in a clear policy.

  6. shrubHugger says:

    24-18-108 (2)

    (2) A public officer or a state employee shall not:

    (a) Engage in a substantial financial transaction for his private business purposes with a person whom he inspects, regulates, or supervises in the course of his official duties;

    (b) Assist any person for a fee or other compensation in obtaining any contract, claim, license, or other economic benefit from his agency;

    (c) Assist any person for a contingent fee in obtaining any contract, claim, license, or other economic benefit from any state agency; or

    (d) Perform an official act directly and substantially affecting to its economic benefit a business or other undertaking in which he either has a substantial financial interest or is engaged as counsel, consultant, representative, or agent.

    *for the asshats who don’t think this kind of breach is expressly written into state law.

     

  7. ohwilleke says:

    There are really two issues here.  

    One is the claim that he can’t afford to be Secretary of State on the salary when he knew what it was going into the job.  In that regard, it really doesn’t matter what job he does.  They all point to his insincerity about campaigning for the post knowing it was a full time job with a given salary.  It isn’t illegal to moonlight per se, but it is politically offensive, and there are some circumstances (such as “sweetheart deals” based on elected official status) where it is outright prohibited.

    The second is the concern that there is a conflict of interest involved.  In this regard that notion that: “The elected SOS should not have a second job with any employer who does business in Colorado.”

    This far overstates what is going on.  Most of the business obligations of the SOS are truly ministerial and involve absolute no discretionary decision making on the part of the SOS.  Mostly, it involves filings of corporate incorporation documents (and parallel documents for other entity types) and filings of corporate annual reports, and filings of chattle mortgages.  Mostly, this is automated via a SOS website that is already up and running.  No elected official in recent memory has had the IT chops to meaningful participate in programming.  The case for the SOS abstaining from this out of conflict of interest concerns isn’t any more reasonable than the notion that the clerk and recorder shouldn’t be allowed to own real estate or vote because the clerk and recorder handles real estate title records and runs elections.

    There are areas, like bingo licensing, discipline of malfeasance by notaries, and elections where the SOS’s office has more discretion.  But, while involvement in those areas might be a conflict of interest (particularly if one doesen’t realize the need to recuse oneself from cases in which one has personal connections to a party), mere involvement in a Colorado based business with no active SOS disputes does not.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      But aren’t state employees (non department heads, I realize it wouldn’t necessarily apply to Gessler) required to get a signoff for ANY outside employment to prevent even oblique conflicts? I’m going to go ask my friend Michie, but I recall this, IIRC.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      Does this mean Dave Thi was barking up the wrong tree all along? 🙂

    • Colorado Pols says:

      We think you are understating the pervasive role of the Secretary of State in Colorado business. The Secretary of State has minimal oversight, and even in a “ministerial” role over business registration requires significant trust. In some states, officials are generally barred from employment by any entity subject to their own authority, or that of the government agency with which he/she is affiliated–and this is interpreted very strictly. That’s quite different from telling a county clerk she can’t own property or vote, which is of course silly.

      In any event, we think this is going to boil down to a lack of defined authority and guidelines; and whatever happens to Gessler personally, this is likely to end up as legislation based on conversations we’ve had so far. That legislation will fall somewhere between the hard line we admit we’ve taken here due to the Secretary of State’s unique position, and the under-regulated category this appears to fall in right now in Colorado.  

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