Letters to the Editor

What happened to civility?

Dear Editor,

The personal attacks levied by The Statesman combined with the inaccuracies in the article “Morse complaint turned over to ethics committee,” March 25, 2011, seem to have caused confusion among those at the Capitol and others in political circles. Let me correct the inaccuracies.

A read of the article would lead one to believe that my past work experience consists of one state agency —– a single Secretary of State’s office. I have served under three administrations, both Democrat and Republican, at the Colorado Department of State, as well as for Attorney General John Suthers and former Governor Bill Owens. I have no agenda related to the Secretary of State’s office.

Prior to my time in the public sector I spent eight years in the private sector. Much of that eight years was spent working with corporate bankruptcies and corporate liquidation.

The article stated the Secretary of State’s office lists Colorado Government Accountability Project as a 501(c)(4). This also is not accurate. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the only government agency with the ability to make such a designation.

CGAP’s intent is to be designated as a 501(c)(3), which is a nonpartisan organization, the official ruling by the IRS has yet to be rendered. This is the most appropriate designation because CGAP’s goal is to keep government in check and educate the public on what their government is doing.

The Statesman took issue that the CGAP ethics complaint listed the out-of-session days as 211, saying the accurate number is 206. The reality is that 211 total out-of-session days were claimed but five of those days were for committees that fall under another portion of the per diem statute, so both numbers are accurate. But, really, in the larger picture, either number is appalling for taxpayers because we all pay for Sen. Morse’s per diem days.

The decision to wait to release the information on Sen. Morse had less to do with waiting for him to make a foolish comment about other elected officials and more to do with ensuring the integrity of the information CGAP planned to release. I am sure The Statesman would agree that this action was prudent.

In fact, further evidence that CGAP acted ethically was our delay in release of the information. Had we released the information last fall after the initial open records request, there would have been cries that CGAP was attempting to influence Sen. Morse’s election; releasing the information after comments from the floor of the Senate draws criticism that CGAP retaliated on behalf of a person to whom I have no allegiance.

Whether the issue is five days or release of the information, politics is full of criticism. I would be a hypocrite if I were as unwilling to accept criticism of CGAP after publicly criticizing the decisions of another. I have not been elected to office but I did make a decision to hold those who were elected accountable, and I stand by my complaint and hope that the taxpayers of Colorado do as well.

CGAP will continue to consider the actions of all elected officials and those working in the public sector. The goal of the organization is to ensure that public officials comply with Colorado law and are held accountable for any unethical or illegal behavior they choose to engage in.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned, or perhaps my skin just got a little thicker over the past week. Either way, I’m willing to accept the criticism, just not the inaccuracies.

Stephanie Cegielski
Executive Director
Colo. Government Accountability Project