June 6, 2018
On Monday, June 5th, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) ruled that an ethics complaint filed by Milliken Resident and Editor of NOCO Today Charles Parks against Commissioner Julie Cozad was ruled non-frivolous. Cozad will be given 30 days to respond to the accusations
Parks’ complaint stems from a vote that took place at a March 7th meeting of the Weld Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) in which Cozad voted to receive a $12,268.57 payment from the county for legal expenses incurred during the defense of her first ethics complaint. The payment in question appeared in the list of payment warrants hidden within the consent agenda of that meeting. Cozad voted to approve the consent agenda and by doing so approved her own payment.
Commissioners claim that approval for the money took place at a February 26th work session which took place at 2:30 and lasted until 2:45. This was the only item scheduled for that meeting. At the time of this publishing, we could not verify if the meeting was properly noticed to the public.
The commissioners claimed that Cozad should be reimbursed for her legal expenses stemming from the first ethics complaint because her attorneys spent most of the time arguing that the county had jurisdiction over the Colorado Independent Commission. Those arguments eventually landed in front of the Colorado Supreme Court who ruled that the IEC had full jurisdiction on the matter.
Parks’ complaint claims that the commissioners violated three Colorado State laws during the process to award Cozad her reimbursement. First he claims that the work session wasn’t properly noticed to the public. Second that the commissioners by discussing and then voting on the matter, then ordering the preparation of a check to Cozad constituted taking official action at an unofficial meeting. The first two allegations are clear violations of Colorado Sunshine and Open Meetings laws.
The third allegation claims that by voting to approve the consent agenda without notifying the Colorado Secretary of State of her conflict of interest on the matter, that she violated two additional Colorado State laws.
The first violation is of C.R.S. 24-18-109 (3)(a): The member of the governing body of a local government who has a personal or private interest in any matter proposed or pending before the governing body shall disclose such interest to the governing body and shall not vote thereon and shall refrain from attempting to influence the decisions of the other members of the governing body in voting on the matter.
Parks further states that by failing to inform the Secretary of State of her conflict that Cozad is in direct violation of Colorado Criminal Code C.R.S. 18-8-308: Failing to disclose a conflict of interest.
A public servant commits failing to disclose a conflict of interest if he exercises any substantial discretionary function in connection with a government contract, purchase, payment, or other pecuniary transaction without having given seventy-two hours’ actual advance written notice to the secretary of state and to the governing body of the government which employs the public servant of the existence of a known potential conflicting interest of the public servant in the transaction with reference to which he is about to act in his official capacity. (1)
A “ (2)potential conflicting interest” exists when the public servant is a director, president, general manager, or similar executive officer or owns or controls directly or indirectly a substantial interest in any nongovernmental entity participating in the transaction.
Failing to disclose a conflict of interest is a class 2 misdemeanor.
Parks said, ”It has become very apparent to the citizens of Weld County that we have a set of commissioners that feel they can do whatever they want, whenever they want and are not answerable to anyone. Some have used their position of power and authority to line their personal pockets. The Commissioners have also instituted a reign of terror over anyone that disagrees with their position or challenges their authority.” Cozad will have an opportunity to respond to the complaint, and possibly testify in front of the commission before an investigation and potential penalties are imposed. The maximum penalty that could be extended to Cozad could be twice as much as the financial benefit she received, or in this case $24,537.14.