State Sen. Vicki Marble was found to have violated Colorado ethics laws Monday for hosting a panel on oil and gas without disclosing its sponsor.
The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission found that Extraction Oil and Gas, a local energy developer, paid for the event. In a 3-2 vote, the panel decided that amounted to an unconstitutional gift and fined Marble $2,242--or twice the cost of the event.
“If you think I’d be upset, to the contrary,” said Marble. “I think it’s a good thing when [the commission] gives us an opinion so we can better fulfill our legislative duties.”
Marble also said she was glad to see the commission split on the decision. Her attorney, Marcy Glenn, said they will wait until the commission submits an official opinion in May before deciding whether to appeal in court.
A representative for the Colorado Office of Legislative Legal Services said it has paid nearly $48,000 in tax dollars to cover Marble’s legal fees so far. Almost all the money has been paid to Denver firm Holland & Hart, where Glenn is employed.
Marble said did not know the cost of her defense and declined to comment.
The case began nearly a year ago when Sarah Mann, a citizen from Broomfield, filed a complaint with the commission after attending the panel in February 2017. The gathering at CB & Potts restaurant and brewery in Broomfield included a buffet of vegetable platters and burger sliders for up to 100 people. Mann also says that Brian Cain, a spokesman for Extraction, paid the bill and asked for the receipt.
But an invitation for the event named Marble, not the company, as the event host. The meeting was meant to give residents “the facts” on plans to drill for oil and gas in Broomfield.
“The event wasn’t what it was billed to be,” said Mann. “It ended up being a commercial for the industry. And that’s the problem.”
In testimony before the commission, the aide who organized the event said Marble didn’t know she would be the host until 24 hours prior to the event, according to the Greeley Tribune.
Democratic State Sen. Andy Kerr dismissed concerns that the decision could discourage future public meetings. He said he regularly provides coffee and donuts at town halls, but makes sure the money always comes from his personal or campaign funds.
“There’s certainly a right way of doing it and a wrong way of doing it. And this looks like the wrong way,” said Kerr.
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