DENVER–Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission have both agreed to act on complaints filed against Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler on allegations of misusing public funds.
A spokeswoman for Morrissey’s office told multiple media outlets Monday that the district attorney had launched a fact-finding inquiry into a criminal complaint filed against the Republican Gessler by the liberal group Colorado Ethics Watch.
Meanwhile, the commission voted Monday 4-0 to investigate Gessler’s decision to reimburse himself for travel and discretionary expenses, also in response to a complaint by Colorado Ethics Watch.
“We are pleased that this state’s Ethics Commission will investigate this important public corruption case,” said Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch in a statement.
Word of the dual investigations comes just as Gessler is preparing to oversee the Nov. 6 vote as the state’s chief elections officer. While the complaints are unrelated to his election role, they could be used to challenge his integrity in the event of a skirmish over balloting in what is expected to be a tight presidential race in Colorado.
Colorado Ethics Watch alleges that Gessler improperly used public funds to pay for an August trip to the Republican National Lawyers Association meeting in Sarasota, Fla. After that, he visited the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
He was reimbursed $1,452 for the trip from his office’s discretionary fund. His spokesman, Rich Coolidge, said last week that the RNLA conference was for educational purposes and that participants received Continuing Legal Education credit for it.
Coolidge said that no public funds were used for Gessler’s travel to the RNC. Government officials are forbidden from using state funds for personal or political reasons.
The complaint also says that Gessler failed to provide receipts after reimbursing himself for $117.99 from his discretionary account in July. Coolidge said he “simply forgot” to keep receipts for his expenses, which included day-to-day charges for items such as parking and meals.
“There’s nothing in the law to require that,” added Coolidge.
Colorado Ethics Watch, a non-partisan group that has been criticized for targeting Republicans almost exclusively, filed the complaints in October.