The Independent Ethics Commission is being asked to investigate another member of Colorado Springs City Council.
This time, Angela Dougan is under the spotlight. Bill Murray, who was running against Dougan in District 2 and has publicly endorsed her opponent Joel Miller, has asked for an investigation into campaign contributions Dougan received in 2011.
According to Murray’s complaint, Dougan received $1,000 from Comcast on July 13, 2011, and failed to report it until April 27, 2012. In the meantime, she voted twice against allowing Comcast rival, Qwest Broadband, to also receive a franchise agreement with the city. She didn’t discuss the contribution, nor did she recuse herself from the vote, Murray said in an email to the Business Journal.
“The acceptance of this money, during a period when Ms. Dougan was not running for re-election, is a cause of great concern and crates a perception of undue influence in the conduct of city business,” Murray said in his complaint. “A review of all submitted financial reports indicated that no other council member received payments of any kind during this period.”
According to Dougan’s campaign finance reports, Comcast gave her an additional $1,000 during this election cycle.
Dougan discounts Murray’s complaint, saying it is false, frivolous and politically motivated.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is politically motivated,” she said. “It’s three weeks to the election. This is completely without merit. He is just trying to remove me from office.”
Dougan said she received the campaign donation from Comcast after the election cycle. She reported it according to city regulations. But, she said, she wasn’t the only Councilor to receive money.
“Others received contributions at that time as well – Tim Leigh, Merv Bennett, Val Snider and Jan Martin,” she said. “Why isn’t he filing complaints against them?”
She also says she disclosed the campaign contribution at the informal meeting before the first vote about allowing a second cable franchise, and received permission from City Attorney Chris Melcher to vote on the proposal.
“He asked if it would affect the way I voted, and I said no,” she said. “So he said to go ahead and vote on it.”
Dougan said her opposition to the contract that would allow CenturyLink to provide cable television services in Colorado Springs wasn’t prompted by money from Comcast.
“I believe in cable competition,” she said. “But I noticed the CenturyLink’s trucks in my neighborhood. I knew they’d offer services there first. I asked about lower-end neighborhoods, and they said they had a 30-year timeline to offer services throughout the city.”
Dougan said she asked them to move it to 20 years, in order to provide competitive cable rates to all Colorado Springs residents. CenturyLink refused. City Council passed the franchise agreement on a 6-3 vote.
“Val Snider voted against it too,” she said. “It wasn’t just me. I think it’s clear that this is motivated politically. Frankly, I think ethics complaints should be handled privately. Instead, I have to defend my character and my values against this allegation, which has no merit. I guess he doesn’t have any record at all to run on.”
Murray stands by his accusations, saying that he felt it was a “slippery slope.” ’Once you go down it, it becomes easier,” he said in an email. “Notice that she has accepted another $1000 from COMCAST this go around. Why would a franchise, doing business with this city, give money to a candidate? There is only one answer. And it’s not good.”
Murray said he filed an official complaint because Dougan would not answer his questions.
“(She) told me that Mr. Melcher had told her there was no conflict of interest,” he said. “I find that incredibly suspect and asked for documentation (which she has not provided).”
Councilor Tim Leigh also is under investigation by the Ethics Commission. Dave Neumann, founder and President of the Board of Neumann Systems Group, filed a complaint last year against Leigh, charging that in his role as City Councilor and a board member for Colorado Springs Utilities, Leigh attempted to use his influence to broker an agreement between NSG and a North Dakota company. Neumann also said Leigh was harming his company by making repeated false statements about the NeuStream, a wet coal scrubber that is currently being installed at the Martin Drake facility.
The Ethics Commission hasn’t yet ruled on Leigh’s case, but narrowed the scope of the investigation to three charges.
The group agreed that it would investigate Leigh for allegations of seeking personal gain through a Utilities vendor, conflict of interest based on direct or indirect financial interests in downtown properties affected by possibly closing the Martin Drake Power Plant, and engaging in activities “that may create or does create the appearance of impropriety,” according to a letter sent to Leigh by the city’s ethics commission.
Dougan says the next step will be for the Ethics Commission to look into Murray’s allegations, and decide if there is reason for further investigation. She said she found the entire situation to be “very sad.”
“I have worked with these Councilors, and I can tell you that every single one of them has the highest ethics,” she said. “Every single one of them is working hard for this city. These public complaints are just frivolous.”