DENVER (AP) – Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has picked up the tab for a trip he took to the Republican National Convention last year that he initially billed to taxpayers.
By sending a check for $1,278 to the state treasury on Wednesday, it appeared Gessler was trying to close the book on the politically damaging episode as he mulls a run for governor.
Gessler, a Republican, used state funds to travel to Tampa and speak at a panel on election law. Critics complained about his use of public money to attend a partisan event.
A watchdog group filed a complaint with the state ethics commission, and the Denver district attorney’s office opened an investigation.
Gessler said he billed the state appropriately since he oversees elections and learned about issues related to his job. He spent another $400 in state funds to return early to Colorado to deal with death threats against his family, and did not repay that expense Wednesday.
“We’re pleased that the secretary finally did what he should have done months ago — repay the state for funds used to attend a Republican Party event,” Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, said in a statement. “This should send a message to all elected officials that public funds are not for personal or political use.”
Gessler maintains he did nothing wrong.
“After many months of attempting to defend himself from this political attack, it became obvious that the Ethics Commission simply wasn’t going to give the secretary a fair hearing,” said Andrew Cole, a spokesman for Gessler. “So he decided to pay the money back in an effort to move on from this episode and get back to work for the people of Colorado.”
Gessler filed paperwork on Thursday to run for governor in 2014. His advisers described the filing as a formality that does not mean he is officially in the race. Gessler has said he will make a final decision next week.
The filing came after he told Republicans in Fort Collins last week that he was thinking of challenging Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo and Steve Laffey, a former mayor of a Rhode Island city who now lives in Colorado, also plan to run for governor as Republicans. Tancredo announced his candidacy Thursday on a Denver talk radio show.
By NICHOLAS RICCARDI, Associated Press
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