Former Jefferson County Commissioner Kevin McCasky’s protracted dance with Colorado Ethics Watch and the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) has finally come to close. Last week, the IEC decided that McCasky did, in fact, violate the the state Ethics Code in lobbying for an increase in county funding to the Jefferson County Economic Council while at the same time applying for the top job there. Much to McCasky’s egotistic contentions to the contrary.
From The Columbine Courier:
Former Jefferson County commissioner Kevin McCasky violated Colorado law when he voted to approve $400,000 in county funds for the economic council to which he had applied and later accepted a high-paying job, a state ethics panel ruled Monday.
The Colorado Ethics Commission made its ruling a little over a year after Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint against McCasky, alleging the former commissioner breached his fiduciary duty to the county by performing an official act in which he had a financial interest.
The commission, which had only three members present, voted 2-1 in favor of one count pertaining to whether McCasky acted to substantially benefit a business in which he had a financial interest, with commissioner Matt Smith dissenting. But the commission voted unanimously that McCasky breached the law by failing to officially disclose his interest in the Jefferson Economic Council while voting to approve the county contribution. However, all three commissioners were unconvinced that McCasky violated a gift ban in the state constitution.
Ethics Watch filed the complaint based on a Feb. 16, 2011, story in the Columbine Courier, that reported the conflict of interest.
“One of the issues is perception versus the reality,” commissioner Bill Pinkham said during the hearing. “Mr. McCasky did know that he applied for the job, and the other commissioners did too, in which case it seemed appropriate for him to recuse himself.”
Though McCasky was found to have violated two parts of state law, the commission did not vote to levy any fines against him, [Pols Emphasis] in part because Colorado Ethics Watch had later agreed that there did not appear to be a violation of the state’s gift ban.
McCasky’s political future, of course, likely can’t recover from this particular stain on his term as commissioner. While his name was once near the top of the short list of potential GOP candidates for CD-7 — pending Ed Perlmutter‘s eventual departure from that office — McCasky has no choice but to set aside any political ambitions for the near future, given just how easily both primary and general election opponents could brand him as “corrupt.” Just imagine the dramatic effect of a sonorous narrator describing McCasky as a “Top Ethical Failure” while darkened images of the former commissioner sail across your TV screen Ken Burns style. You get the picture.
Still, political implications aside, it’s curious that McCasky is getting off with no more than a few harsh words and a slap on the wrist. What’s the purpose of going through the entire ethical investigation if there’s no penalty imposed? The Independent Ethics Commission exists, ostensibly, to deter elected officials from misusing their positions for personal gain. If there’s no fine, where’s the deterrence? McCasky’s reputation is damaged, sure, but he’s still receiving a healthy paycheck for a position that he may not have had he not acted unethically.
Why even bother to invest an allegation of misconduct if you’re not going to, you know, impose some sort of punishment when that allegation is proven?