Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Last Ethics Commission Member Named

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission is finally fully staffed.

The other members of the body created to enforce Amendment 41 selected Larry Lasha, a Fremont County commissioner, as the unaffiliated member of the commission.

He is the fifth and final member, meaning the IEC can now proceed to implement the citizen-passed ethics measure.

Lasha has been a county commissioner since 2002. He was formerly a firefighter and the Florence city manager.

Colorado Common Cause executive director Jenny Rose Flanagan said she is optimistic that Lasha's appointment will lead to resolution of some of the controversies surrounding Amendment 41.

"It's a strong group of people who are committed to the work," Flanagan said. "The framework of the law lays out very clearly that violations have to be related to your public office and have to amount to private gain. Things like going on a date or borrowing a lawnmower, things like that, are clearly outside the realm of public service."

Flanagan said she does not expect many ethics complaints to be lodged now that the IEC is operational.

"I guess we anticipate, more so than complaints, requests for advisory opinions so that the commission can offer guidance on some of the questions raised over the past few years," she said.

The Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled that a lower court injunction blocking enforcement of Amendment 41 should be vacated. The court did not, however, decide whether the expansive ethics measure is consistent with the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs in the case before the Court have argued that Amendment 41 violates the First Amendment.

Flanagan believes Amendment 41, which is codified as Article 28 of the state constitution, is constitutional.

"I'm definitely optimistic that it will be upheld," she said. "Ethics laws and gift bans are commonplace around the country and have been affirmed time and again."

The other four members of the IEC are Democrats Roy Wood and Nancy Friedman and Republicans Sally Hopper, a former state senator, and Philip M."Matt" Smith, a former state representative.