DENVER (AP) – Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler and state Treasurer Walker Stapleton insisted Tuesday there will be no conflicts of interest while they continue working part-time with their old firms.
Gessler, who will continue working for the Hackstaff Law Group, a firm prominent in election law cases, said he will ask clients to release their names. If all of the clients refuse, he’ll stop working for the law firm but won’t resign as Secretary of State, he said.
Stapleton said his real estate investment firm, which is publicly traded, doesn’t do business in Colorado and the state does not invest in equities. He also has no plans to quit his day job.
Their decisions to continue working part-time with their old firms to supplement their state salaries raises questions about potential conflicts of interest.
Luis Toro, director of the watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch, says taxpayers need to know more about the agreements to outside work commitments.
“These elected officials are constitutional officers who already have full-time jobs,” Toro said.
Attorney General John Suthers, who also earns extra money teaching college classes, said Tuesday that working for a private company while serving as a state executive officer is not barred by law, but there could be conflicts.
“Scott could work at Wal-Mart. The question is if there is a conflict of interest,” Suthers said.
Gessler listed income from his law firm on his financial disclosure statement and said he sought advice from Suthers in advance. Suthers refused to say what was discussed, citing attorney-client privilege.
Gessler said the state salary of $68,500 is not enough to support his family, including a 2-year-old child and his 72-year-old mother, who is financially dependent on him, but he will remain in office.
“I will not resign,” he said Tuesday.
Stapleton, who also earns $68,500 as treasurer, said he’s not doing it for the money, he just wants to continue to oversee his investments.
He turned the investments over to a blind trust run by his 65-year-old father, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The federal report says he will work for $250 an hour, with a maximum of $150,000. Stapleton said as a former chief financial officer for other private firms, he worked 100-hour weeks and state law defines full-time as 40 hours a week.
“It’s not a conflict of interest. I think that litmus test should apply to all public officials,” he said.
Stapleton said everyone who runs for state office knows the salary is and it’s their choice whether to run.
Republicans aren’t the only state elected officials who are getting other jobs.
In a move that could require legislative changes, Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper named Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia to lead the Department of Higher Education.
The appointment makes Garcia the first Colorado lieutenant governor to also lead a state agency.
Garcia was president of Colorado State University-Pueblo before being elected.
Former GOP Gov. Bill Owens ran into constitutional issues when he was considering appointing Lt. Gov. Jane Norton to also head the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, a position she held previously before being tapped by Owens to be his running mate.
The duties of lieutenant governor are limited — one of the only duties is serving as chairman of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs — but the duties are spelled out in the state Constitution, and Cabinet positions are not included.
There were also questions about which job would take precedence, being lieutenant governor with little to do or running a major state agency, and there were salary questions.
– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
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