House Ethics Committee - Second Meeting
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON ETHICS
|Votes: View--> ||Action Taken: |
12:01 PM -- House Ethics Committee - Second Meeting
Representative Levy, Chair, called the meeting to order and explained that the House Ethics Committee received a notebook from staff that includes the Speaker's letter creating the Ethics Committee, Representative Balmer's answer to the House Rule 49 complaint, documents submitted by other legislators, and other information related to the ethics investigation. Copies of the materials contained in the notebooks are on file at the Legislative Council Staff Office, Room 029, in the State Capitol.
Representative Judd disclosed that an e-mail between Terry Snyder and Eric Groves in the notebook refers to him. Representative Judd explained that Mr. Snyder is a personal friend. He explained that he has worked with Eric Groves and the Colorado Chiropractic Association on social events and other activities. He offered to remove himself from the ethics investigation if a conflict of interest occurs. Representative Levy and Representative Massey also explained that they are referred to in e-mails submitted to the committee.
Representative Levy asked the committee to identify additional information that is needed to complete this preliminary investigation. Representative Judd explained that House Rule 49 limits the type of information that may be gathered and used by the Ethics Committee. According to this rule, the preliminary investigation must consist of an examination of the complaint, the answer, if any, and any other evidence compiled pursuant to the request of the committee, but the committee may not receive testimony or other evidence from other sources. Representative Judd suggested that the House may want to revisit the language of House Rule 49 in light of the evidence-gathering challenges experienced by the current Ethics Committee. Representative Levy announced that Representative Balmer's attorney, Jonathan "Jon" Anderson, submitted an e-mail to the Ethics Committee that explains that Representative Balmer learned of the Minority Leader's vacancy at 2:00 p.m. on December 12 (Attachment A).
On January 9, 2009, the Ethics Committee submitted a request to Representative Balmer asking that he provide written phone records during the period of time commencing December 10, 2008, through December 17, 2008. Representative Judd explained that the written response from Representative Balmer's attorney said that the committee's request for personal and business records was overly broad. The response stated that complying with the committee's request would cause Representative Balmer and his wife to violate legal and fiduciary duties owed to private sector business clients. Committee discussion followed about how the committee should view the withholding of these records. They also discussed whether additional information is needed to determine whether probable cause exists to find that Representative Balmer violated a House Rule or other law.
Representative Levy explained that the Ethics Committee must determine what actions Representative Balmer took and whether these actions violated a legislative rule or law. Representative Massey explained that House Rule 49 may limit the committee's ability to request new information from Representative Balmer. He also explained that he would like to know how the Colorado Chiropractic Association learned that Representative Acree was undecided in who she would support in the race for minority leader.
Representative Curry discussed Joint Rule 36 (b) (4) that prohibits lobbyists from becoming an active participant in the internal organization or leadership races of the General Assembly (Attachment B). Representative Levy explained that the Ethics Committee has not received a direct response from Representative Balmer. Instead, he responded to the House Rule 49 complaint through his attorney. She explained that Representative Balmer's response relies on the affidavits of Eric Groves, Dr. Nelson Vetanze, and Dr. Steve Schuster, President of the Colorado Chiropractic Association. She explained that there is a discrepancy between Dr. Schuster's affidavit in which he claims not to have not communicated with Representative Balmer since October 7, 2008, and a November 2, 2008, e-mail from Dr. Schuster to Joyce Martello, Executive Director of the Colorado Chiropractic Association that indicates a more recent meeting between Representative Balmer and Mr. Schuster occurred. Committee discussion followed about whether the committee has received enough information to complete its preliminary investigation.
Representative Curry explained that she does not have the information she needs to determine whether Representative Balmer acted improperly, but that she would support a motion that probable cause exists to find that a violation may have occurred. If the motion is approved, she explained that the committee would have broader authority to gather evidence.
Representative Levy explained that under House Rule 49 (d), if the Ethics Committee determines that probable cause exists, Representative Balmer would be allowed to request a hearing before the committee, at which time he would be entitled to appear, present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and be represented by counsel. The Ethics Committee would also have the power to take testimony under oath and to issue subpoenas. She explained that the rule does not prohibit Representative Balmer from voluntarily submitting phone logs or other records prior to the Ethics Committee making a determination that probable cause exists. Committee discussion followed about the adequacy of evidence submitted by Representative Balmer.
Representative Massey stated that the investigation would benefit from obtaining Representative Balmer's phone records. The committee discussed sending a second request for records to Representative Balmer
Sharon Eubanks, Office of Legislative Legal Services, responded to questions about the activities of Committee on the Joint Rule 36 Complaint that is investigating Erik Groves, the lobbyist for the Colorado Chiropractic Association and whether the House Ethics Committee members have access to information discussed during the meetings of the Committee on the Joint Rule 36 Complaint. She explained that the committee's meetings are open to the public. Its next meeting is February 3. Representative Massey requested a CD of the committee's January 16 meeting. He also explained that it would be helpful if the Ethics Committee learned how Mr. Groves determined that Representative Acree was undecided in the minority leader's race.
Ms. Eubanks stated that the Ethics Committee could request Representative Balmer's phone records with certain records being redacted to protect confidential conversations that are unrelated to the ethics investigation.
Representative Levy explained that the written response submitted by Representative Balmer's attorney did not provide the information that she was expecting. Representative Levy requested that the Office of Legislative Legal Services submit a second request that Representative Balmer submit redacted phone records and e-mails. He may also submit a written response to the ethics complaint by Friday, January 23.
The House Ethics Committee adjourned. (Next meeting: Wednesday, January 28, at 8:00 AM., in House Committee Room 0111.)