DENVER (CBS4) – He’s already got a full-time job as Colorado’s secretary of state and now Scott Gessler says he still needs to work at his old election law firm. Critics say Gessler’s plan to moonlight raises serious conflicts of interest.
The Republican Gessler was sworn in last week as Colorado’s secretary of state. Before that he was a partner in a prominent law firm specializing in election law. Now Gessler says he plans to start doing contract work for the firm.
He says it’s about money. He’s got a family to support and he says the secretary of state doesn’t pay enough. In fact, Colorado’s is the third lowest paying in the country.
Gessler insists he’s not breaking new ground — legislators at the Capitol work in the private sector after all. But critics say they’ve never heard of the state’s election chief working on the side for an election law firm.
“The truth is it’s an economic necessity,” Gessler said.
Gessler says his state salary — $68,500 — is nearly half what he made as an attorney.
“I anticipate they would be property dispute case, for example, or contract dispute case,” he said.
Gessler says it’s no different than a state lawmaker who works in the private sector. Luis Toro with Colorado Ethics Watch — a left-leaning organization — disagrees.
Scott Gessler, the chief regulator for elections, is going to be working for an election law firm. That’s pretty different from any of those other situations,” Toro said.
Gessler says Colorado Ethics Watch is singling him out because he’s litigated cases against them.
“I think a lot on their part they’re doing it for political gain and personal animosity,” Gessler said.
“That’s a distraction and I think a lot of people are concerned about this,” Toro said.
Toro stopped short of saying they would file a formal complaint. Gessler says he’s comfortable and he’s ethically and legally on solid ground.
“I’m being absolutely transparent,” he said.
He insists he told people who asked during his campain.
Gessler says he will consult with the attorney general on every case and says his side job will only take about 20 hours a month — work he’ll only do on weekends.