Probe of Denver’s former clerk shows how voters are sometimes left in the dark when elected officials behave badly

Denverite: Unlike public employees, Denver’s elected officials cannot be fired over sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct — except by voters, who hold the power to reelect and recall them, but not the privileged details to inform those decisions.

Former Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson allegedly lifted up the dress of a subordinate, rubbed a balloon on another’s butt and drank on the job, according to an investigation by Colorado Public Radio. The public never knew of the allegations or the subsequent probe because no city policy requires publicizing misconduct of elected officials, substantiated or not.

The results of the investigation into Johnson, held by the city attorney’s office, are still under lock and key.

Johnson, who headed Denver’s elections and other civic matters from 2011 through this spring, admitted no wrongdoing. Yet she apologized to the staffer and agreed to stay away from the office for six months and attend remediation for sexual harassment and alcohol abuse.

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