Rocky profile of Coffman omitted finding that subordinate and "political ally" Kopelman "does appear to have violated state statute"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

The Rocky Mountain News, in profiling Colorado Republican congressional candidate and Secretary of State Mike Coffman, stated regarding a scandal involving a Coffman subordinate that an audit "cleared the worker of the most serious charge." But the article did not disclose that the audit stated the worker "does appear to have violated state statute" in that he "owned and operated a partisan political business while employed" by the state, or that he was "a political ally of Coffman," as the News reported previously.

In a July 24 profile of Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, who is a Republican candidate to represent Colorado's 6th Congressional District, the Rocky Mountain News reported of a scandal involving a Coffman subordinate that "[s]tate auditors cleared the worker of the most serious charge, that he sold state data to clients." However, the News omitted the audit's finding that the worker also "does appear to have violated state statute" in that he "owned and operated a partisan political business while employed with the Department of State." Further, the News did not report, as it had previously, that the worker, Dan Kopelman, was "a political ally of Coffman."

From the July 24 Rocky Mountain News article by Berny Morson, "Mike Coffman: leatherneck, fiscal watchdog":

As secretary of state, Coffman has come under fire for alleged ethics violations.

In one instance, Coffman picked a consulting firm for his congressional campaign that also worked with an election machine manufacturer, Premier Election Solutions. All of Premier's machines were cleared for use in the presidential election.

Coffman denied any link between the consulting firm and the decision to certify the Premier machines. The head of the consulting firm said work for Premier and Coffman's congressional campaign were not linked.

In another instance, Coffman reassigned an employee at the secretary of state's office who was running a political consulting business. State auditors cleared the worker of the most serious charge, that he sold state data to clients.

As Colorado Media Matters has noted, the independent audit of Kopelman followed a request from Coffman and the watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch, formerly Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government. In a section titled "Conflicts of Interest," the Colorado state auditor's November 2007 report on the Colorado Secretary of State's office found:

During the audit of Colorado's Help America Vote Act implementation, allegations were made concerning a conflict of interest related to the outside employment of an employee of the Department of State's Elections Division. The Secretary of State requested the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) review this issue to determine whether any state laws or personnel rules had been violated. The audit work conducted in response to this request was performed by the OSA, and the findings and recommendations resulting from that work are reported in this chapter.

Office of the State Auditor staff reviewed the personnel and business records, emails, and other documentation related to the employee's term of employment with the Department of State. We also conducted interviews with the employee and other management and staff of the Department. To provide greater assurance about the adequacy and comprehensiveness of the policies and practices of the Department of State relative to the outside employment of its staff, we expanded our review. Specifically, we evaluated whether other Department employees were engaged in outside business activities and whether these activities were being conducted in accordance with statutes and personnel rules. We found the following:

  • The conduct of the employee for whom the initial allegations were made does appear to have violated state statute [Section 24-50-117, C.R.S.] and State Personnel Board Rules [Rules 1-13 and 1-14]. Specifically, the employee owned and operated a partisan political business while employed with the Department of State. The employee's ownership and operation of this business appears to "raise criticism and the appearance of a conflict of interest" particularly given the job responsibilities for which this individual was assigned within the Elections Division. Furthermore, the employee engaged in outside employment/business ownership without advance written approval from the appointing authority. [emphasis in original]

The News reported the connection between Kopelman and Coffman in a December 4, 2007, article:

But state auditors found that Kopelman, a political ally of Coffman, did violate two state personnel rules when he continued to operate a side business by hosting a partisan political Web site while working in the elections division.

"The employee's ownership and operation of this business appears to raise criticism and the appearance of conflict of interest particularly given the job responsibilities for which this individual was assigned within the elections division," the audit says.

Auditors criticized Coffman's lack of oversight of employees' moonlighting, finding that four other employees did not receive the required written permission before engaging in outside employment and businesses. [emphasis added]

Similarly, The Denver Post on the same day identified Kopelman as "a former president of the Denver Metro Young Republicans and former Coffman campaign worker."

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