DENVER (CBS4)– Less than a month before the Democratic Senate primary, former Gov. John Hickenlooper and current Senate candidate, became the first person ever to be held in contempt by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission.
The hearing took place via video conferencing website WebEx. Hickenlooper felt it violated his due process not to appear in person, so he didn’t appear at all. He defied a subpoena to testify in his ethics hearing.
After learning he would be a no show, the commission asked the Attorney General’s office to file a motion compelling him to testify. When that didn’t work, the commission unanimously found him in contempt.
Former U.S. Attorney Bill Leone, a commissioner appointed by Hickenlooper, said, “By failing to appear today, the defendant has imposed a tremendous amount of cost and inconvenience on the commission, on the Attorney General’s Office, on the courts, on witnesses and all those who have an interest in this hearing.”
The hearing is to determine whether the former governor violated the state’s gift ban by accepting trips on private jets and failing to report them.
His attorney, Mark Grueskin, argued they were gifts from friends or for official business, “The trips in question were trips where the Governor was engaged in an official state function, in and out-of-state locations.”
Suzanne Staiert, the attorney for Public Trust Institute, the conservative group behind the complaint, disagreed, “They were all bought and paid for by corporations. They all had potential conflicts of interest, they were all lavish expenditures that benefited Mr. Hickenlooper directly.”
If he’s found guilty, Hickenlooper will be fined twice the value of each trip. He may also have to pay for the hearing as part of a range of sanctions that could also include the commission vacating his defense.
At the end of the hearing, just before the commission voted to find Hickenlooper in contempt, his attorney said he was now willing to testify virtually on June 16.
The chair of the commission said the subpoena was to testify that day. The commission will issue sanctions Friday.