DENVER, CO – Republicans are no longer in immediate danger of losing their majority – a one seat advantage – in the state House after a complaint of violating ethics rules against Rep. Laura Bradford (R-Collbran) was dismissed and House Speaker Frank McNulty reinstated her as chair of the House Local Government Committee.
Bradford had threatened to bolt from the GOP – and in so doing topple the House Republican Majority – in the wake of an ethics complaint of driving under the influence of alcohol that led to a traffic stop on January 25.
The House Ethics Committee today voted unanimously to dismiss the complaint because there was no evidence to support the allegation that Bradford had alcohol-impaired judgment while driving home from a happy hour and that she had invoked legislative privilege to avoid arrest.
“It is important that we do our part to maintain the public trust and respect the integrity of the House of Representatives,” said McNulty, who thanked the ethics committee members “for taking up this challenge.”
“I am happy that the Ethics Committee dismissed the complaint against me, and I am ready to continue working on behalf of my constituents on the Western Slope,” said Bradford.
After a happy hour with legislators, lobbyists and others at the Prohibition bar and restaurant, Bradford was pulled over by Denver Police officers who gave a roadside sobriety test, cited her for an improper turn and careless driving, and called a cab to take her home.
The ethics committee concluded there was not enough evidence to weigh whether or notBradfordhad been driving under the influence of alcohol or whether her abilities were impaired. The complaint that Bradford had invoked legislative privilege to avoid arrest was later debunked by the Denver Police Department that clarified she had not asserted the obscure constitutional amendment.
“Given the fact that we have no physical evidence of malfeasance with regard to driving under the influence, it’s only alleged, but nonetheless again no tests, no physical evidence, no charges… at this point it’s a traffic violation citation,” said Ethics Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs.
“I think this is a teachable moment for all of us. Obviously we’re held to a very high standard and we’re in the public eye constantly so all of our actions are scrutinized and justifiably so,” said Massey. “We’re elected to uphold the public trust.”
Massey said this will lead to discussion about the interpretation of legislative privilege and whether it should be revoked.
Denver Police Lt. Matt Murray said last week that police officers had considered giving Bradford a breathalyzer test but decided not to because, if she failed and was arrested, it would have violated a constitutional amendment that gives legislators immunity from arrests during the session.
A separate charge of possessing a gun while under the influence of alcohol was forwarded to the Denver District Attorney’s Office, which ultimately declined to file a misdemeanor charge against Bradford.
Bradford had admitted that she’d had at least three drinks, but unequivocally stated that she was not intoxicated and had persisted in asking police officers to administer a breathalyzer test. The legislator said that had that test been performed, she would be vindicated and exonerated.