Colorado GOP Sen. Bob Gardner accused of undue influence in colleague’s court case

Colorado Springs lawmaker calls complaint “ridiculous”

A panel of Colorado state senators will review an ethics complaint against their own — Colorado Springs Republican Bob Gardner, who is accused of using his status as a legislator to influence a court case.

According to state records, this is the first such Senate inquiry since 2011, and only the third in the past 15 years.

Attorney Chris Forsyth, who brands himself a judicial watchdog, alleges four separate violations of Senate rules by Gardner stemming from comments made at a January 2019 committee hearing at the Capitol.

Gardner then said that about five or six years ago, while he was serving in the House, an aide who worked in the same Colorado Springs office building where Gardner practiced law approached him to say that was that they were appearing before a senior judge, and shared concern about that judge’s remarks.

“And then he showed me the transcript and he said, ‘And I don’t know what to do, but I understand you’re in the legislature,’ and so forth,” Gardner said at the hearing.

“Well, I was able to call the administrator of the state court,” he continued. “But if my colleague had not shared office space with a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he would have faced a motion.”

This, Forsyth argued in his complaint, amounts to undue influence on the state court administrator to appoint a different judge in his colleague’s case. Forsyth also argued that it was not appropriate for the senator, who is also a lawyer, to be on the Senate Judiciary Committee and wanted him to be removed from that panel and expelled from the Senate.

In an interview on Thursday, Gardner called the complaint “ridiculous” and “used for political purposes.”

“It has no merit. If what I have been accused of doing and doing is wrong then every legislator of the Mahasabha is guilty of a breach of morality,” he said. “It makes me wonder why any public service wants, because you find yourself explaining to journalists why the complaint is baseless, when you have so many other things to do.”

Recalling the anecdote shared at that 2019 committee hearing, Gardner told The Denver Post that he called the state court administrator on behalf of another attorney representing a woman in a divorce case. Gardner said the judge in that case had made a sexist remark on behalf of the bench. Gardner said he took a call because he felt the judge should be reappointed, and that doing so did not benefit him personally or financially.

“As a legislator, I call department heads all the time and say, ‘Hey, I have a constituent who has X problem and why is your department doing something like this,'” Gardner said. Said. “The only thing I get when I make those (calls) and succeed is I develop a reputation as an effective legislator who is accountable to his constituents.”

Democratic Senate Speaker Leroy Garcia, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Steve Feinberg and Republican Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert discussed earlier this month whether the complaint met the standard for proceeding. According to the Nonpartisan Office of Legislative Legal Services, this standard is a conclusion that the complaint “verifies a qualified or ethical violation”.

“I agree with the president going forward,” Holbert told The Post, though he said he was not able to comment on the specifics of the case.

A panel of five senators — three Democrats and two Republicans, headed by Democrat Julie Gonzales — will evaluate the case and complete a preliminary investigation within 30 days, at which point they can dismiss the complaint or find out whether the issue is pending. Possible reason for keeping

If they take the latter route, they will have the power to take testimony and issue summons.

The panel will have the authority to recommend any of a number of outcomes for Gardner, ranging from case dismissal to censure to expulsion. If a reprimand is recommended, 35 members of the Senate will vote on the result.

“I trust my Democratic colleagues, who were appointed to the committee to put the facts in the rules and the law, and I will be acquitted,” Gardner said, adding that she was noticing the partisan advantage inherent in the make-up of the panel. troubled by. .

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