Is Colorado Ethics Watch getting nitpicky with its complaint against Aurora councilman Ryan Frazier?

Ryan Frazier.jpg
Ryan Frazier

Yesterday, Colorado Ethics Watch, a nonprofit watchdog group, leveled a formal complaint against Aurora City Council member Ryan Frazier with the to-do of a major political bombshell. Noting they'd filed a compliant with the Aurora City Clerk accusing Frazier, an up-and coming GOP hotshot who's aiming for Michael Bennett's Senate seat, of filing inaccurate financial disclosures for the past three years, Colorado Ethics Watch Director Chantell Taylor said in a phone interview that Frazier's disclosure errors "beg the question what he's hiding.... It almost looks like he was misleading the [Aurora] clerk's office."

So what, exactly, are the egregious mistakes the complaint is based on? Frazier apparently neglected to note on his disclosure forms that he'd changed employers. In 2006, he left his job at Raytheon Corporation for a position at the business communications firm Avaya. But he never reported the new job on city records, points out the Ethics Watch complaint, nor did he note he later became a partner in another enterprise called Takara Systems.

"In a September 18, 2006 council meeting, I announced publicly and for those watching from their living rooms on television that I was leaving Raytheon to join Avaya. It was transparent and documented for posterity," says Frazier in a statement. He adds that he hasn't received income from Takara and therefore did not need to disclose this business. As for not noting the job change on his disclosure forms, Frazier says, "It was a slight oversight that is now being corrected."

So Frazier admits he made a minor mistake -- but Taylor, for one, doesn't think it was a slight oversight: "I don't think it's possible he forgot," she says. In other words, Colorado Ethics Watch must believe he's hiding something, right? Do they have some proof there's something fishy going on with Frazier's employment at Avaya? "There's no clear indication of that," Taylor concedes. "Our research didn't turn up any direct link between votes and we haven't received any tips about it." And anyway, she says, "That's what the city clerk's office can figure out."

This isn't the first time the nonprofit's taken aim at Frazier. While the councilman was embroiled in fighting for the passage of a controversial right-to-work amendment last year, the group groused about contributions he took from a company that won an Aurora city contract -- a complaint that the Adams County District Attorney's Office eventually ruled was superfluous. And the group's apparently not subjecting Frazier's nine city council colleagues to the same scrutiny. Taylor says her organization only researched Frazier's financial records because they received a tip from their website about them and didn't look at the other council members' records "because we didn't have any information that there were inaccuracies on them."

Maybe the Aurora City Clerk's office will find evidence of major wrongdoing in Frazier's case. But at this point, Colorado Ethics Watch's big bombshell doesn't seem to have much, well, bang. It's good to be diligent and all, but if the nonprofit gets a reputation for crying wolf, is anybody going to listen if they actually uncover some serious dirty laundry?

And talking about financial disclosures, Colorado Ethics Watch is reported to have ties to the Colorado Democracy Alliance, a liberal group that backs Democratic causes. So does the group have to report the source of their funding anywhere? "We are not required to like Council member Frazier is," says Taylor. "Our donors prefer anonymity and we honor that."

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