Denver DA: No charges against Sec. of State Gessler
DENVER — The Denver District Attorney announced Wednesday that no charges will be filed against Secretary of State Scott Gessler who had been accused of misuse of state funds.
Gessler was accused of using the money on a Republican party event. He said the event was an election law workshop and not a partisan event.
In February a Grand Jury examined the evidence and did not find probably cause that a crime had occurred, said DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough.
The Grand Jury wrote a report for the court, which was released Wednesday.
According to the report Gessler received to payments for a trip he made to the Republican National Lawyers Association conference in Tampa, Fla in August 2012.
Evidence in the Grand Jury investigation included thousands of pages of emails, expense reports, financial documents, conference brochures and the Secretary of State handbook.
The jury found the money Gessler used came from a discretionary fund that was traditionally used for a variety of purposes. When Gessler put in requests to be reimbursed, he did so without providing receipts, credit card statements or documentation for two reimbursements — one a little over $117 and the other for $1,400.
“The Grand Jury finds that there was no criminal conduct related to the above noted pay-outs from the Discretionary Fund,” the report said. “However, the Grand Jury herein expresses displeasure with the fact that Secretary of State Gessler did not provide any documentation to account for the lump sum pay out.”
“The difficulty arises in the apparent lack of transparency inherent in requesting and receiving money from the Discretionary Fund without the necessity of providing even the simplest form of documentation,” the report said.
Regarding the trip itself, Gessler went to the RNLA 2012 National Election Law Seminar to speak on a panel. The conference also allowed him to gain credits for continuing legal education, which lawyers are required to obtain throughout their career.
A few days later, Gessler went to the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay from August 27 till he returned early on August 31 when he and his family received several threats.
Gessler asked to be reimbursed for hotel cancellation fees with the money coming from the Secretary of State’s general expense fund.
Gessler asked for $1,452 for the RNC return trip and 1,278 for the RNLA conference, the report said.
In September, The left-leaning Colorado Ethics Watch filed the complaint against Gessler’s travels and use of state funds. Ethics Watch asked the Denver police and DA to investigate Gessler leading to the Grand Jury investigation.
The jury found that the return home trip from the RNC was a justified use of state money because of the threats against Gessler and his family.
He also defended the RNLA conference expense saying it is up to the discretion of the elected official to use general funds as the official sees fit “and that practices of past elected officials demonstrated that his use of Discretionary Funds to attend the RNLA was appropriate,” the report said.
In an effort to stop the Ethics Watch investigation, Gessler in May paid back the state the $1,278 he received for the emergency trip home “so that it could possibly minimize the distraction of the ethics complaint and grand jury investigation,” the report said.
The report concludes that while “the Grand Jury finds that there was no criminal conduct related to the use of Discretionary Funds to attend the RNLA conference, in light of the Secretary of State speaking on a panel, the election law training at the conference and the accreditation…the Grand Jury believe that the Secretary of State’s decision regarding the use of Discretionary Funds in order to attend a partisan and political conference like the RNLA was not prudent, especially when it was followed by a trip to the Republican National Convention.”
While he has not officially announced, Gessler is believed to be exploring a bid to run against Gov. John Hickenlooper.