The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission voted unanimously last week to investigate allegations of potential self-dealing against a Polis cabinet official.
Dan Gibbs, the Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources, is accused of failing to disclose his wife’s employment at the Keystone Policy Center before the group secured a $500,000 government contract to manage public engagement on wolf reintroduction in Colorado.
Like the ethics commission’s decision to investigate Gov. Polis’s former chief of staff, the development involving Gibbs is significant because only a small percentage of complaints are deemed non-frivolous and advance to a full investigation.
One of the more troubling components of the complaint stems from Gibbs’s failure to disclose his wife’s employment at the Keystone Policy Center after the group was awarded a large contract from Parks & Wildlife, which Gibbs oversees.
Gibbs maintains he wasn’t involved in the process of awarding the contract.
The state says the bid it received for the wolf reintroduction contract was roughly half of the $496,000 that was ultimately awarded to Keystone.
“Awarding a contract that was 50% higher than the next bid to the employer of Director Gibbs’s wife and then choosing not to publicly disclose the conflict creates a serious breach of the public trust,” former Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler said following the ethic’s commission’s announcement.
Keystone’s preferential treatment from the state is troubling enough on its own, but looks even worse when one takes into consideration how enmeshed the group is in Democratic circles.
As we reported previously, Keystone was hired by Polis’s nonprofit group, “Boldly Forward, which served as Polis’s transition committee when he was elected governor.
Their team included prominent Democrats like former Gov. Bill Ritter, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, former Colorado State University President Al Yates, former Colorado Democrat Party Chairman [and Polis Chief of Staff] Rick Palacio, and two former Democratic House speakers, Crisanta Duran and Andrew Romanoff.
Keystone reportedly “facilitated” Boldly Forwards’s transition work.
It’s hard to believe a group like Keystone would receive a state contract at almost double another competitive bid simply on merit alone.
It will be fascinating to see what the ethics commission uncovers.