The report of the city’s Independent Ethics Commission regarding Colorado Springs City Councilor Helen Collins’ role in a 2014 real estate transaction with TABOR author and former elected official Douglas Bruce deserves a one-word synopsis:
In the report, released early Monday afternoon, June 8, the Commission found that Collins committed at least two felonies, as well as knowingly breaching her ethical duties to the city.
“By acting as a pass-through owner,” the report said, “Collins violated the law. Under Colorado law, if a person, intending to defraud a creditor, transfers their interest in property subject to a security interest trying to defeat, impair or render the security interest worthless or enforceable, they have committed criminal fraud. Seller (Douglas Bruce) declared to Collins that the intent of transferring the property to Collins was to prevent the City from collecting Judgment #1. This is a felony. Collins intended to facilitate Seller’s crime, which is also a felony.”
Those are the most damning conclusions of the report. The Commission noted discrepancies and misstatements in Collins’ testimony, and pointed out that she put her loyalty to a friend and associate above her fiduciary duty to the City. She even noted that she felt obliged to do it, because Bruce had helped her get elected to office.
Commission members struggled between recommending censure or removal from office.
“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 … The fact that Collins helped Seller circumvent a debt through felonious means after he announced her political debt to him makes her actions unconscionable.”
Yet the Commission recommended censure, because: “No criminal prosecutor has accused, arraigned or convicted Collins of any crime, which carries a heavier burden of proof than is required to find an ethical violation.”
That’s a toothless penalty, to say the least.
Council may decide to go beyond the recommendation and expel Collins for such egregious misconduct, or District Attorney Dan Mays could ease their path by filing criminal charges. The City Council plans to discuss the matter at tomorrow’s regular council meeting.
But for now, Collins has dodged a bullet – but it might not be over.
Here’s the full report: 052915 IECReportRegardingHelenCollins.