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Rivera makes ethics group's 'ugly' list

June 25, 2009

Mayor Lionel Rivera was slapped with a dubious distinction Thursday in Colorado Ethics Watch's second annual report featuring the "good, the bad and the ugly" in ethical behavior in the state.

Rivera landed in the report's "ugly" category because of his reported business ties to the real estate developer who became part of a three-way, $53 million deal to build a downtown headquarters and other facilities for the U.S. Olympic Committee. One other public official was cited as "ugly" in the report.

Rivera, who maintains he had no conflict of interest in the USOC deal between the city, the USOC and LandCo Equity Partners, slapped back, saying the ethics group is "unprofessional" and driven by politics.

"I don't know much about them so I decided to look them up (online). I found an opinion piece from the Denver Post and the title is ‘Ethics Watch? Hardly,'" Rivera said.

"From what I read, they are a left-leaning organization that likes to target Republicans," he said.

The city's Independent Ethics Commission is investigating Rivera and has not yet reached a conclusion. Ethics Watch, which describes itself as a nonprofit watchdog organization, said Rivera "appears" to have committed an ethics breach.

"Based on the evidence presented thus far, it appears that Mr. Rivera's conduct fits squarely within the definition of conflicts of interest set forth in Colorado Springs Code of Conduct," according to the report, titled Ethics Roundup 2009: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The report, released Thursday, spotlights officials or agencies that "have either committed ethics violations or taken commendable action to promote higher ethical standards."

In a statement, Director Chantell Taylor said the group hopes to "promote accountability and encourage responsibility" by exposing the ethics of public officials.

"At the same time, we are fulfilling the citizens' right to know if their elected officials are dutifully representing the public interest or their own private interests," she said.

Rivera earned the "ugly" label because of his business relationship with Ray Marshall, chairman of LandCo Equity Partners. Rivera, a vice president of investments at UBS Financial Services, handled at least three brokerage accounts tied to Marshall before LandCo was selected for the deal, according to documents submitted to the ethics commission by John Cook, an attorney for Marshall.

The other official placed in the "ugly" category is Joe Blake, a member of Colorado State University's governing board who was selected as the sole finalist for a newly created chancellor position. A judge ruled recently that the board violated the state's open meetings law when it selected Blake, according to The Associated Press.

Rivera said it was an honor to be paired with Blake.

"He has done great things for the state of Colorado and the Denver metro area, and to be put in the same category as Joe Blake," the mayor said, "I consider that a compliment."


Do you agree with the Ethics Watch assessment? Vote in our poll to the right.


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