Party-line vote blocks audit of Gessler

DENVER - Legislators deadlocked along party lines Tuesday on whether to audit Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who is accused of misusing his office's funds.

Gessler already faces a criminal investigation from the Denver district attorney and a probe from the state's Independent Ethics Commission. Records show he used part of his office's $5,000 discretionary budget to attend Republican events, and twice he claimed the balance of the fund for himself at the end of the year.

Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, wanted the State Auditor's Office to examine Gessler's budget after the first two investigations are finished.

"It never hurts to have another eye looking at the issues. And, yes, there are two eyes, but this will be a third eye," Tochtrop said.

But the Audit Committee deadlocked 4-4 on party lines on whether to approve the audit, and without a majority vote, the audit can't proceed.

Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said the Legislature shouldn't spend $100,000 for an audit of a $5,000 fund.

"It is hard not to look at this from the point of view of piling on, and I have a serious concern about the use of taxpayer's money. It is not a cost-effective way to deal with this issue," King said.

Tochtrop said the principle is more important than the amount of money that might have been misused.

"It lowers the public trust of elected officials when discretionary funds are used for partisan purposes," she said.

Gessler was happy with the outcome.

"The fact is, all of my expenditures are publicly available so spending $100,000 of taxpayer money to review that information is wasteful. I applaud the Republican members of the committee for recognizing that these taxpayer dollars could better be used on moving our economy forward," Gessler said in an emailed statement.