The Colorado Springs City Council will decide Tuesday whether to pursue censure of Councilwoman Helen Collins, as the city's Independent Ethics Commission recommended upon determining that she "has no place in government" after her "unconscionable" efforts to help felon Douglas Bruce circumvent the law.
The council could pursue a fine, censure or removal of Collins from office. But the commission did not recommend the latter course of action, noting that Collins did not help Bruce to obtain personal gain.
If the council pursues action, it will have five days to notify Collins, who then will have 10 days to advise whether she wants a public hearing. The ethics commission found, "An elected official who allows a political supporter, in return for their political support, to use them in an attempt to circumvent the law has no place in government."
Collins said Monday afternoon she had not read the report but was headed home to do so.
Like all council members, Collins was kept abreast of Bruce's lawsuits against the city and the fact that he owed two judgments to pay costs for those dismissed cases.
But when Bruce sought to sell a condo he owned for $140,000, Collins agreed to let him transfer the title to her Dec. 4, though he owed a city judgment of more than $20,000, the IEC found.
Although Collins denied having received an IRS Form 1099S showing the amount of the sale, for tax purposes, she had handwritten her name and Social Security number on that form, the investigation found, while Bruce told her she did not have to worry about the taxes.
When Collins signed documents to transfer the title to the buyer, Bruce asked if the check could be made out to him. The escrow agent said it could not, as Collins was the owner. So Collins signed a form allowing him to pick up the check.
On Dec. 5, the city recorded a second judgment against Bruce. The title company found that it could not collect that judgment because Collins had accepted title the day before the city filed that lien.
Bruce picked up the check for the sale Dec. 8, and Collins endorsed it to him. He deposited it in his bank account, investigators found.
Asked during the probe why they engaged in the deal, Collins said Bruce was a close friend who was subject to governmental persecution, so she tried to prevent government interference in the deal.
When pressed, she said she had no specific reason to believe any government would interfere, but she wanted to prevent the buyer from backing out because Bruce is a felon. She said she couldn't explain why she thought the buyer would back out two days before the closing, the commission reported.
Just before Bruce was interviewed by the IEC, he paid the second judgment to the city.
Collins and Bruce said the city attorney had all the information on Dec. 8 but didn't file a complaint until 45 days later, after a recall election against Collins had been announced. The IEC confirmed those facts but did not investigate why the city attorney's office filed the complaint when it did.
The IEC investigated from March 10 through May 10. Its findings say even if Collins was not trying to help Bruce avoid paying a city judgment, she breached her "duty of loyalty" to the city.
She participated in a real estate deal intended to prevent the city from collecting on its first judgment, rendering the city unable to collect on the second judgment, and did so because Bruce had helped her get elected, the panel found.
"Collins placed her friendship with [Bruce] above her duty of loyalty to the city and her ethical obligations, resulting in harm to the city's interests," the commission determined.
Because she did not accept the property transfer for private gain, the commission wrote, the members "struggled with whether to recommend censure or removal from office."
"The fact that [Bruce] announced in public that Collins should help him because she owed him for getting her elected, and Collins nevertheless completed the transaction, makes her temerarious [reckless or rash]. But the fact that Collins helped [Bruce] circumvent a debt through felonious means after he announced her political debt to him makes her actions unconscionable."
The City Council meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.