DENVER - The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission will meet Feb. 10 to hear a complaint that Gov. John Hickenlooper violated state rules by accepting a free hotel room in Aspen during a Democratic Governors Association conference.

Compass Colorado filed an ethics complaint Sept. 30 asking the commission to decide whether Hickenlooper violated a state gift-ban for elected officials by accepting from the DGA two-nights of free lodging and a free conference admission worth a combined total of $1,100.

Compass Colorado is asking that the commission decide whether Hickenlooper must pay back the DGA.

The Colorado Constitution limits gifts to $53 in any calendar year "without the person giving the gift or other thing of value receiving lawful consideration of equal or greater value in return from the public officer."

Hickenlooper's chief legal counsel, Jack Finlaw, filed a response to the complaint on Dec. 20.

"The DGA's provision of lodging was not a gift to Governor Hickenlooper under this definition because the DGA received lawful consideration of equal or greater value in return from the governor in exchange for the overnight accommodations," the response says.

Hickenlooper is vice-chair of the DGA and hosted the conference in July in Aspen for 21 other Democrat governors who are members of the nonprofit organization.

The response says Hickenlooper donated both his time and policy expertise to the nonprofit.

Compass Colorado also asks whether it was appropriate for Hickenlooper to let staff members to organize and attend the trip with him even though it was a partisan event.

Finlaw's response was that it was lawful and appropriate given the public policy nature of the conference.

There are five members of the Independent Ethics Commission who will review evidence during the February meeting. The commissioners will then decide whether there is the need for a full hearing on March 31.


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