Taxpayers pay for both sides of Gessler ethics lawsuit, but how much?

Colorado Politics: Taxpayers are on the hook for more than half a million dollars from legal costs involving a lawsuit filed by then-Secretary of State Scott Gessler against the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission.

But the exact amount will never be known, because the Secretary of State’s office disposed of the first two years of billing records related to the lawsuit while it was still moving through the courts.

The Secretary of State’s office covered Gessler’s legal costs in the matter. The Attorney General’s staff represented the ethics commission.

The disposal of records in what was until recently an active lawsuit raises concerns with a leading open-records advocate. The public has an interest in knowing how much the lawsuit cost taxpayers, and because two years of records are gone, “we have only a partial picture” of those costs, said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

On June 5, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Gessler, who challenged the ethics commission’s jurisdiction over a complaint filed in 2012 that claimed Gessler had misappropriated funds.

The commission ruled that Gessler had violated the state’s ethics law and ordered him to pay a fine of $1,514.18. That fine has yet to be paid, according to responses to Colorado Politics’ open-records requests and review of court records.

Gessler and his most recent law firm have not responded to emails asking about the fine.

The estimated legal costs for attorneys on Gessler’s side and for the Attorney General’s staff in representing the commission, total about $502,507, based on responses to open records requests and other information.

The reason that’s an estimate: the Secretary of State’s office could not provide copies of legal bills prior to July 1, 2014.

Visit Colorado Politics for more.

Subscribe to Our Blog