About the Board of Ethics

The Board of Ethics, established by Denver ordinance and the City Charter, is an independent agency governed by specific provisions of the City Charter, the Denver Code of Ethics and its own Rules of Procedure.   There are five members of the Board, appointed by the Mayor and by City Council.  Members are all unpaid volunteers and meet monthly.  The Board has one full-time employee, Staff Director Michael Henry. 
 
Denver has had a Code of Ethics for city officers, employees and officials since at least 1965. The City Council strengthened the Code of Ethics in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2012.   Both the Denver City Charter and the Code of Ethics provide “it is the intent of the City and County of Denver that its officers, officials and employees adhere to high levels of ethical conduct so that the public will have confidence that persons in positions of public responsibility are acting for the benefit of the public.”
Read the article, Ethics in City Government

Mission

Encourage and guide city officers, officials and employees to adhere to high levels of ethical conduct so that the public will have confidence that persons in positions of public responsibility are acting for the benefit of the public.

Policies and Guidelines

The Board of Ethics wishes to give proper consideration to every request for an advisory opinion or waiver.

Therefore, the Board encourages anyone requesting an official advisory opinion or waiver to:
  1. Submit the request in writing by letter or e-mail to the Staff Director of the Board of Ethics at least ten days before the monthly meeting of the Board of Ethics (on the fourth Thursdays of each month, except for November and December, when the meetings are on the third Thursdays). This will enable the Staff Director to gather information and prepare and mail a report to the members of the Board.
  2. Attend the Board of Ethics meeting so that the person requesting the opinion or waiver may respond to any questions the Board members may have. If the person requesting the advisory opinion or waiver is doing so on behalf of another person, the requester should encourage the affected person to attend and respond to questions.
  3. Exceptions may be made in case of justifiable emergencies.

Adopted by the Board of Ethics: June 22, 2006

The Denver Code of Ethics prohibits City officers, employees or officials from accepting travel or lodging expenses under certain circumstances. In that regard, the Denver Board of Ethics has considered several requests for advisory opinions and/or waivers relating to payment for travel or lodging expenses for City employees by organizations other than the City and County of Denver.  

To assist you, the Board of Ethics publishes the following guidelines for your use:

  1. Acceptance of travel and lodging expenses by City officers, officials or employees is prohibited if (i) you are in a position to take direct official action with regard to the donor and (ii) the donor has an existing, ongoing or pending contract, business or regulatory relationship with the City. There is an exception for payment by nonprofit organizations or other governments for attendance at a convention, fact-finding mission or trip or other meeting where you are scheduled to deliver a speech, make a presentation, participate in a panel or represent the City. (Section 2-60, Code of Ethics).
  2. "Direct official action" is defined as any action that involves:
  3. Negotiating, approving, disapproving, administering, enforcing, or recommending for or against a contract, purchase order, lease, concession, franchise, grant, or other similar instrument in which the City is a party. With regard to "recommending," direct official action occurs only if the person making the recommendation is in the formal line of decision making.
  4. Enforcing laws or regulations or issuing, enforcing, or regulating permits.
  5. Selecting or recommending vendors, concessionaires, or other types of entities to do business with the City.
  6. Appointing and terminating employees, temporary workers, and independent contractors.
  7. Doing research for, representing, or scheduling appointments for an officer, official or employee, provided that these activities are provided in connection with that officer’s, official’s or employee’s performance of (1) through (4) above. (Section 2-52(b), Code of Ethics).

While the Board of Ethics has the authority to grant a waiver, it believes that the best interests of the City are served if waivers are not routinely granted. However, the Board of Ethics is prepared in emergency, unusual or exigent circumstances to consider granting waivers. The fact that a City department or agency does not have sufficient budget for travel and lodging expenses is not sufficient to justify the granting of a waiver by the Board of Ethics.

    Issued December  2002

    Board members are volunteer unpaid positions.  Each Board member must be willing to dedicate himself or herself and the necessary professional time to:
    • Review written case materials and other documents before each meeting
    • At each Board meeting give official advisory opinions to city employees, elected officers and board and commission members about ethics questions and considering whether waivers should be given if a proposed action would violate the Code of Ethics but the action would be in the city’s best interest
    • Review and comment on drafts of Board opinions
    • Review and, if necessary, conduct hearings on complaints filed by citizens or city personnel alleging violations of the Code of Ethics
    • Give guidance to the staff director of the Board of Ethics on policy issues and ethics training issues

    Board of Ethics Meeting Minutes

    Board Members

    Edgar L. Neel earned a B.A. from Amherst College and a J.D. from Cornell University Law School. He has practiced law in Denver for over thirty years.  His focus is on commercial and construction matters, representing contractors, insurers and surety companies in complex claims and litigation.  He is a past president and current director of the Denver law firm of Pendleton, Wilson, Hennessey and Crow, P.C.  He was the District Director for Congresswoman Diana DeGette in 1997.  Reappointed by City Council. Term expires 4-20-2015. He was elected Chair of the Board of Ethics in May 2008 and served for two years and was elected again as Chair in 2013 and in May 2014.
    Roy V. Wood earned his B.A, M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Denver. He was a Professor and Dean of the School of Communications at Northwestern University from 1972 to 1988. In 1989 he became the first Provost of the University of Denver. In 2006 he chaired a blue-ribbon panel on ethics for the Colorado House of Representatives. The Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives appointed him as a member of the first Colorado Independent Ethics Commission and he completed that term in June 2011. He teaches classes at D.U. in communications ethics and dialogue and directs dissertations, most of which center around ethics in organizations and public service. Appointed by the Mayor. Term expires 4-30-2015. He served as Vice-Chair of the Board of Ethics in 2012 - 2013.
    Brian J. Spano earned his B.A. from the University of Michigan and his J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law. He has been with the law firm of Rothgerber, Johnson and Lyons since 1987 and is currently the firm’s Managing Partner and specializes in insurance and commercial litigation matters. He also serves as counsel to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and advises the Academy on matters relating to ethics complaints against Academy members. He was appointed by City Council to a term ending April 20, 2017. He was elected Vice-Chair of the Board of Ethics in May 2013, and in May 2014.
    Andrew S. Armatas earned his. B. A. at the University of Colorado at Boulder and his. J. D. from the University of DenverHe has served as a Denver Assistant City Attorney, a partner in a Denver law firm, City Attorney for Broomfield and a Denver County Court Judge, retiring in January 2013 after 23 years of service on the bench. During 7 of those years, he served as Presiding Judge of the Denver County Court. He was appointed by the Mayor to a term ending April 30, 2017.
    Sylvia S. Smith has been employed with the City and County of Denver in a variety of capacities - from Director of Policy and Research in the Auditor’s Office to her current position as a Program Specialist for the Denver Office of Economic Development where she manages neighborhood service and facility improvement contracts. She holds a B. A. in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has been active in many organizations including the Colorado Black Women for Political Action, Single Mothers of Color, Inc., National Council of Negro Women, Inc., Denver Section and Colorado Common Cause. She was appointed by the Mayor and City Council to a term ending June 24, 2017.

    Digest of Opinions

    Summarized opinions given by the Denver Board of Ethics in response to fact-specific requests for advisory opinions or complaints.   Access the Digest of Opinions

    Board Meetings

    Board meetings are monthly and are currently held on the third Wednesday of every month, at the Wellington Webb Building, in room 2.D.4. Meetings begin at 8:00 a.m. and last for two hours.

    Please check the schedule each month as the dates and times may vary.


    Contact Us

    All requests for advisory opinions, citizen inquiries or complaints must be submitted either by email or in writing to: 
    Executive Director:
    L. Michael Henry
    720-865-8412
     201 West Colfax Avenue  # 2H13
    Dept 703 (for U.S. mail)
    Denver, CO 80202

    How to Request Ethical Advice

    The Board of Ethics, if requested, gives official written advisory opinions to city employees, elected officers and board and commission members about Code of Ethics issues... Learn more
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