After City Council President Albus Brooks was accused of misusing public money and other resources as a means of promoting his re-election, it was stated by a Colorado judge that state law does not apply to city.
The issue was brought to a state hearing in which it was found that state law (which is against the practice of misusing public money to fund your own election) did not apply to home-rule cities like Denver. Why? Because Denver has adopted its own campaign finance rules and these rules do not clearly bar the use of public resources for political causes. Similar restrictions, like that of the state’s law, are set in most city policies, but not in Denver’s. Following the case, it was announced that an ordinance change is underway because of loopholes such as this.
During the ruling, the allegations against Brooks and the city were not addressed. Instead, the focus was on the misuse of the council staffer’s time and the misuse of the city social media accounts which were used to promote a $500 council donation to the Whittier Elementary School PTA fundraiser and which actually resulted in the display of a banner at the school that promoted Brooks.
The Denver group who filed complaints in the first place—the Strengthening Democracy Colorado group—said that they will likely ask the Colorado Court of Appeals to review the ruling it has made.
While Denver does prohibit the use of public resources in political campaigns through its career service rules for city employees, it is abundantly clear that enforcing those rules is difficult—so difficult, in fact, that Brooks was able to go un-punished for doing exactly this. The Denver Post reported that The Denver Elections Division is now working on an ordinance change which they will propose at the earliest possible time. The change hopes to copy state law and prohibit the use of public resources to influence elections. Spokesman for The Denver Elections Division, Alton Dillard, said that their ordinance change hopes to “simplify the local campaign finance complaint process”. Meanwhile, Brooks denies that he has done anything wrong and states that he supports the ordinance change so that the rules can be made clearer. He further stated that his staffer was logged out of work-time during the fundraiser for Whittier Elementary and that the banner was a promotion of the council office, not of his campaign. However, city emails show that the staffer asked only to change her hours only after a reporter asked her if she had done so—and even then it was only or 30 minutes.