DENVER (AP) — Colorado lawmakers opened the door Thursday to an investigation of Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s use of public funds to attend the Republican National Convention in Florida and a GOP election law training event.
Members of the state’s audit committee unanimously gave auditors approval to conduct research for an audit into Gessler’s expenses. Lawmakers will vote at a later meeting whether to authorize an audit.
“It’s what the public wants — holding the elected officials to a higher standard,” said Democratic Sen. Lois Tochtrop, one of the lawmakers requesting an audit.
Gessler, the state’s top elections official, was reimbursed for $1,570 from state funds for his travel. Democrats and left-leaning groups have questioned whether that was appropriate.
“Granted it’s a small sum when you look at the big picture but yet it is also making sure that we as elected officials, all elected officials in the state, keep the public trust and I think this was something that harmed the public trust,” Tochtrop said.
Gessler has said he welcomes a full review of his expenses.
“We’ve consistently made this financial information public and we look forward to working with the auditor on their review,” said Gessler spokesman Andrew Cole.
Denver prosecutors are also investigating and the Independent Ethics Commission is reviewing the case.
Republican Rep. Chris Holbert said he agreed with Tochtrop that “the public does hold us to account.”
In the letter requesting an audit, Tochtrop and Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman say they are concerned that the two events Gessler was reimbursed for “may not have been the only instances in which the Secretary may have used state funds for partisan activities.”
The lawmakers say they want lawmakers to look at all expenses from Gessler’s office discretionary fund since he took office Jan. 1, 2011, as well as office procedures for approval of such funds. They also want auditors to examine the office’s internal guidelines for what’s considered appropriate use of discretionary funds.
By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)