Pueblo Clerk Pleads Guilty to Four Counts of Campaign Finance Violations
Gilbert ‘Bo’ Ortiz, Pueblo County’s Clerk and Recorder, pled guilty last month to four counts of violating the Colorado Constitution (Article XXVIII) and the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA) for failures to report campaign contributions and spending, as required by law.
Campaign Integrity Watchdog filed a campaign finance complaint on 9 September indicting Ortiz on these violations. Ortiz successfully delayed this case past the November elections in which he was a candidate.
At the hearing just before his case was finally going to trial on 12 November, Ortiz filed a “guilty” plea, stipulating to four violations of the law, each of which incurred a statutory penalty of $4,900 (for a total of $19,600 in fines applying by law).
Ortiz pleaded that the failures to disclose and report contributions and spending were “mistakes” and “oversights” – despite the fact that, as clerk & recorder, he is responsible for enforcing the very same laws at the county level – and begged for mercy by the court, seeking reduced penalties for his violations.
Sadly, the court largely let Ortiz off the hook, imposing a mere $1,000 in penalties (a whopping 94% reduction) and ordering him to file an amended report correcting the “deficiencies” in his previous filings.
“Ortiz is not only an incumbent elected official with a great deal of experience in the electoral process, but is the county elected official (County Clerk and Recorder) with responsibility for ensuring compliance with the requirements of elections and campaign finance law in one of the most populous counties in the state. In general, elected officials should be held to a higher standard; those elected officials responsible for compliance with the law should be held to the highest standard,” said Matt Arnold, Director of Campaign Integrity Watchdog.
Mr. Arnold continued, “While we are satisfied that Clerk Ortiz admitted his guilt, we are very disappointed at the lenient sanctions imposed for multiple violations by an elected official. Are ‘Some Animals More Equal than Others?’ Why have laws if they will not be enforced?”
Meanwhile, four current state legislators (Mike McLachlan, Brittany Pettersen, Joe Salazar and Dave Young) have also stipulated (‘pled guilty’) to violations of Colorado campaign finance laws; the penalty judgments are pending. Will these elected officials also receive the “official” discount – or will they be held to the same standards as “common citizens?”
Link to Complaint and Final Agency Decision: