Lynn Bartels stays on top of the Morse per diem story today, reporting Morse's per diem requests for 2010 and his previous ethics complaint from last year.
While this blog has hammered the media for the past couple of weeks over their lack of coverage, we have found ourselves rather pleased with the detailed and thorough reporting of the Denver Post and Colorado Springs Gazette recently.
Bully to the reporters at those papers for giving this issue due consideration and column inches.
Recently, a reader wrote to us pointing out an interesting contradiction between Morse's defense from last year's ethics complaint and the government reimbursement forms Morse filled out in 2009 and 2010 that have come out in the current saga.
The ethics complaint in 2010 stemmed from Morse's bragging to Fox 31's Eli Stokols about only paying $500 for an apartment clearly worth far more. The complaint alleged the drastically reduced rent for the two bedroom apartment with a view of the Rockies violated Amendment 41, which banned gifts worth more than $50 to elected officials.
Morse's defense, which ultimately helped get the complaint dismissed, was that he only stayed in the apartment on weekdays. Since he wasn't a full time tenant it made sense to charge him less rent than the going market rate.
The Emoluments of Legislative Office states:
“If a member does not reside in the Denver Metro area, he is allowed up to $150 a day lodging allowance and expenses plus one round trip travel expense per week from the capitol to the member's district. All allowances are paid after the submission of vouchers that justify the expenditure.”
But Morse's per diem and lodging expense forms tell a different story. In February, March and April of 2009 and 2010 Morse requested the $150 lodging allowance for every day of the month, as well as round trip mileage reimbursements to CO Springs each week.
If he wasn't in the apartment on weekends then why was he taking $150 tax-free dollars for lodging reimbursement?
Morse can't have his reduced rent for not being in the apartment on weekends and yet take taxpayer money reimbursing him for an expense he didn't incur.
We realize virtually every lawmaker who lives outside the Metro area requested lodging reimbursement for the entire session. But they didn't claim they weren't there on weekends to avoid an ethics complaint over their living arrangement being unethically funded.
See Cake, Have it and Eat It.