Missing info stalls Balmer probe

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Members of a legislative ethics committee agreed to postpone a vote on “probable cause” in a complaint filed against Assistant House Minority Leader David Balmer while expressing frustration that — because Balmer hasn’t complied with requests for e-mails, phone records and other pertinent information — their investigation has been stalled.

Committee Chair Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, also registered dismay that the response to the complaint submitted on behalf of Balmer by attorney Jon Anderson failed to include Balmer’s personal account of what did or did not happen, his denial and his signature.

“The statement reads like the attorney’s conclusions,” Levy said, adding that it’s devoid of Balmer’s “personal voice… I expect a written answer from Balmer.”

A final request for Balmer’s statement and communication records was made Jan. 20, directly after the ethics committee meeting.

In addition to Levy, the ethics committee includes Reps. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison; Joel Judd, D-Denver; Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs; and Ken Summers, R-Lakewood.

“I’m focusing on what information I don’t have,” said Curry, who suggested voting for “probable cause” if Balmer does not provide the necessary records.

The committee is charged with determining if there is probable cause to make an ethics violation charge — not to determine if a violation occurred. If it finds probable cause, a formal hearing will be held, allowing the committee to subpoena records and witnesses.

The ethics investigation stems from a complaint filed last month by Rep. Cindy Acree, R-Aurora, against Erik Groves, a lobbyist for the Colorado Chiropractic Association, alleging that he attempted to influence her vote in an election for House Republican leadership.

On the basis of Acree’s complaint, Minority House Leader Mike May filed ethics charges against Balmer, of Centennial, questioning whether he instigated calls to Acree by Groves and two chiropractors. As a lobbyist, Groves is prohibited from becoming an “active participant” in internal elections.

Groves and the chiropractors stated that they called Acree without Balmer’s knowledge, and had no contact with him during the leadership race.

Balmer and Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, began vying for the House Minority leadership post on Dec. 12 when May announced his intention to resign. The contest ceased Dec. 16 when May withdrew plans to resign and filed the ethics complaint against Balmer.

Balmer’s attorney did not attend the committee’s meeting, but sent a letter stating that the its original request for communication records was too broad and violated his client’s privacy in family and business matters.

The committee clarified that personal or business information can be redacted in the communication records.

The committee is particularly interested in how Groves identified Acree as a “fence sitter” in the leadership election. According to Acree’s complaint, no one knew she was undecided except Balmer — which implied that Balmer told Groves and others.

In addition, committee members want to probe Acree’s allegation that a chiropractor or someone else offered her a future committee chairmanship.

“Judging by the e-mails, the chiropractors were enamored with Acree,” said Massey.

But he questioned her assertion that one of them had left a phone message promising a committee chair. Instead of promising a chair, he suggested, perhaps the individual was suggesting that she had the potential to be a good committee leader.

In hopes of answering these riddles, Massey requested access to recordings of Groves’ testimony at a Jan. 16 hearing by a separate ethics committee.

The committee reconvenes at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com