An attorney representing former Gov. John Hickenlooper in a case being investigated by the Colorado state ethics committee has been paid $43,390 in taxpayer dollars for his work, The Denver Post reported Wednesday.
Colorado Independent Ethics Commission is investigating if flights that Hickenlooper took as governor could violate government ethics laws.
The Post obtained documents via the Colorado Open Records Act that show Denver lawyer Mark Grueskin was made a special assistant attorney general and appointed in October 2018 to handle the ethics complaint against Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper, now running for U.S. Senate to try to unseat Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, was governor until January of this year, but the ethics case is ongoing.
According to a copy of a contract obtained by the Post, Grueskin is being paid $525 an hour – totaling $43,39 for his work on the case so far. A paralegal assisting Grueskin is also being paid $150 an hour, the contract says.
The Post also noted that Grueskin’s name was redacted from a searchable online government database, despite the database showing his payments, which were funded by the 2003 Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, according to records.
“It’s disappointing that a partisan, dark money group initiated this process with what the Denver Post editorial board has called an ‘error-filled’ complaint,” Melissa Miller, a spokesperson for Hickenlooper, told the Post. “They put political attacks ahead of the facts, and it’s at taxpayers’ expense.”
While it’s not unusual for state officials to have legal costs covered by taxpayer dollars, the report comes amidst Hickenlooper’s bid for the Senate and has opened him up to criticism from Republicans and conservative groups.
“Hickenlooper is once again proving how out-of-touch he is with everyday Coloradans who think it’s important for politicians to be held accountable for their actions,” Colorado Rising PAC Communications Director Lindsey Singer said. “It is not the job of the media or taxpayers to cover for you, Mr. Hickenlooper.”
Hickenlooper, who also briefly ran for the Democratic nomination for president before joining the Colorado Senate race, took heat last week for telling a reporter that the media “should be protecting me on stuff like this,” in response to questions about the ethics investigation.