Scott Gessler: Sec. of State dumps moonlighting scheme, will try to get by on $68,000 per year

scott gessler photo cropped small.JPG
Scott Gessler.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler's plan to moonlight for his old law firm because he couldn't get by on just $68,000 per year created an apparent conflict of interest of off-the-charts proportions and a golden opportunity for satire: See Kenny Be's hilarious Gessler cartoon and Jonathan Shikes's post naming Gessler Shmuck of the Week. But that's all over now: As the pressure peaked, Gessler backed down.

The move satisfied the likes of Colorado Ethics Watch, which had been among the first organizations to note that much of the work done by Gessler's old firm, Hackstaff Law Group, directly pertained to (yes) the Secretary of State's office. In a statement, CEW director Luis Toro said, "We're glad Secretary Gessler has decided not to moonlight for a law firm with clients who have business before the Secretary of State's office. It's just unfortunate that it took public outcry to make Gessler realize that what he was proposing was an ethical minefield."

As for Gessler, his announcement tries to make his capitulation seem high-flown in the extreme -- a tough sell given that he had to have known how much money the job paid long before he declared his candidacy. Here's his mea culpa:

Dear Friends;

I'm writing to tell you about my decision regarding my plan to earn supplemental income through my previous law firm. As recently reported in the media, my goal has been to fulfill my duties as Secretary of State, but also to meet my family obligations. To that end I planned to work about five hours each weekend for specific clients on issues that had nothing to do with the Secretary of State's office. There were safeguards in place to avoid any conflict of interest.

At the same time, I wanted to be up-front and transparent with the people of Colorado, in order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. So early on I chose to talk about this issue before doing any legal work whatsoever.

I carefully avoided recommending any higher compensation for elected officials, because it is truly an honor to serve as Secretary of State. But like many middle-class families in these tough economic times, I am trying hard to square my family obligations with my salary restrictions.

Over the past two weeks, many have asked that I publicly disclose client names. My former law firm has expressed great discomfort with this arrangement. Indeed, I cannot in good conscience expect anyone to subject themselves to public scrutiny, merely because I am doing some legal work for them.

For this reason, I have decided that I will not do any work representing clients through my former law firm. And while I have had substantial discussions with the Attorney General's office about outside employment, I have nonetheless asked the Attorney General to halt work on this issue. I have decided that I will not go forward with my initial plans.

At the end of the day, it is important that we focus on the things that will help Colorado. I have been hard at work finding ways to help Colorado's businesses and protect the integrity of our elections. In the past three weeks we've made good progress, but there's much work to be done.

I am confident that four years from now we will be able to look back and know that the Secretary of State helped make Colorado a more prosperous state and helped make our elections more honest and fair. And over the next four years, I will work hard to make these things a reality.

Sincerely,

Scott Gessler

More from our Comment of the Day archive: "Reader: Scott Gessler was honest about his inability to live on $68,000 Sec. of State salary."

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Harvey
Harvey

Geez, this guy must have been paid by the word as a lawyer. Sorry Westword, here's the edited version. You're welcome:

Dear Past and Future Clients;

I'm writing to tell you about my plan to continue to make alot of money for all of us. As recently reported in the media, my goal has been to use the Secretary of State's office as a political stepping stone or influence peddling smokescreen, take your pick.

At the same time, I wanted to avoid disclosing this plan to the people of Colorado. So after the election, I chose to talk about this issue. I carefully avoided recommending any higher compensation for elected officials, because that is political suicide and I can make more money now and in the future with my plan.

Over the past two weeks, many have asked that I publicly disclose your names. Indeed, I cannot in good conscience expect you to subject yourselves to public scrutiny, because that would move the "backdoor" to the "frontdoor" with our dealmaking.

For this reason, I have decided that, if I can survive this, I will wait the four years to cash in on my position as "former" Secretary of State. And while I have wasted substantial taxpayer dollars through the Attorney General's office about outside employment, I have at least gotten free publicity, because after all, no one outside of fringe groups from out-of-state trying to get things on the ballot (i.e. you) knows who the Secretary of State is, right?

At the end of the day, I am confident that four years from now I will look out of my 17th Street office and know that the Secretary of State helped make us more prosperous. And over the next four years, I will work hard to make that a reality.

Sincerely,

Scott Gessler

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Great take, Harvey. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks for reading and posting.

Beavis
Beavis

Actually, Mr. Gessler and other state officials should be required to get by on half that, which would then place his income more in line with what average people in Colorado make.

Who knows? A little hands-on experience with the working poor in Colorado for once might lead to some actual help for once...

STINGER
STINGER

THE MAN IS FINISHED IN POLITICS, WAIT UNTIL NEXT ELECTION HE WILL BEA POLITICIAL JOKE

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