Colorado Springs Gazette Cover Story - Peg says Colorado can do better in government ethics

(9/10/18) Marianne Goodland wrote an in-depth look at the history of Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission and asked many government ethics experts about its operations and areas for improvement. First, she quoted my observations of the Commission’s operations over the 5 years that I attended public meetings:

The IEC’s lack of transparency also led Colorado Ethics Watch, which was initially formed to make sure Amendment 41 was being properly followed, to start keeping an eye on the IEC, according to Peg Perl, who worked with CEW from 2012 until last year. “They weren’t doing much to get information out to the public in a timely manner,” Perl said.

“What struck you about the IEC is in how they did their business,” Perl, a former counsel to the House Ethics Committee in Washington, D.C., said. That experience gave her a solid background in how an ethics body works from the inside.

What Perl noticed in six years of watching the IEC was a lack of consistency in areas such as process and transparency. “Substantive decision changed and varied depending on who the individual commissioners were at any given time,” she said. “Nothing has changed with CORA or Amendment 41. The only thing that’s changed are the people on the commission.”

I also gave my suggestions on how to improve the accountability and transparency of ethics rules and process in the future:

Perl said what would serve the IEC best is to make it a real, independent agency with civil service staff that would provide the kinds of institutional continuity seen in most government agencies. Funding is the biggest part of that, and the lack of funding gives the IEC an excuse to not do the things voters might have intended, Perl said.

“When they go in for funding on the next budget cycle, everything is ‘we have enough to get by’ and there’s no strong advocate on the commission to say ‘we’re not fully realizing expectations’ or need to grow,” Perl said.

The IEC needs to be professionalized, Perl said. “There’s no reason why we can’t have the best practices and that kind of agency in Colorado.”

Read the full story here.

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