Watching the evolution of the Laura Bradford fiasco at the State Capitol over the last few weeks calls to mind the old analogy about watching a train wreck or a seedy freakshow: We know we shouldn’t look – but we simply can’t turn away.
Bradford, a Collbran Republican, was initially stopped on the evening of January 25 after having a few drinks after work. On that much, everyone seemed to agree. Everything after the traffic stop, however, quickly became an incomprehensible jumble of evolving stories, police incompetence, political theater and good old fashioned grandstanding.
Some observers blamed the Denver Police Department (DPD) for turning a routine traffic stop into Colorado’s sexiest scandal of the fledgling New Year. And they have a point. From a DPD Sergeant instructing a subordinate to lie, to the department maintaining what is effectively a blanket policy of “diplomatic immunity” for legislators that would make the cast of Lethal Weapon 2 blush, DPD has managed to give the Mile High City another black eye – one that is on par with their well-known penchant for police brutality and a catch-and-release “sanctuary policy” that allowed numerous illegal aliens who should have been behind bars or deported go on to commit subsequent crimes.
Heads should most certainly roll at DPD, and a review of the policy that effectively permits state lawmakers to tool around city streets inebriated without any fear of reprimand or prosecution is something the city’s Mayor, Michael Hancock, ought to demand post haste.
Thankfully, with the unanimous dismissal of the matter by a House Ethics panel yesterday, a massive distraction that threatened to transform the entire legislative session into a chaotic morass of political jockeying for control and speculation about a mid-session leadership reshuffle is now behind us.
House Speaker Frank McNulty and ethics panel chairman Rep. Tom Massey, who have spared us all an exhaustive inquest that would have almost certainly degenerated into a political fishing expedition of the first order, deserve credit for handling this sordid affair with dignity and by the book.
Their statesmanship stands in marked contrast to the way Senate President Brandon Shaffer handled the case of Sen. Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora), who never faced an ethics inquiry despite making misleading statements to investigators after swerving into oncoming traffic and killing a woman who was 7 months pregnant in Texas last year.
McNulty, unlike his Democrat counterpart Shaffer, demonstrated leadership by putting public trust and the integrity of the General Assembly before his own parochial political considerations, despite the fact that his razor-thin, one-seat House majority was hanging in the balance.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to run a legislative chamber. In Frank McNulty and Brandon Shaffer’s handling of ethical dust ups, the public now has examples for both.