Steamboat Springs City officials are considering an ordinance that would revise ethical requirements supported by local and statewide voters last November.
The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night approved the first reading of an ordinance that would allow the city to override the state requirements of Amendment 41, a controversial addition to the state constitution that bans legislators from accepting gifts from lobbyists, prevents public officials and their families from receiving most gifts worth more than $50 and establishes an independent ethics commission in Colorado.
Since its approval by Colorado voters in November 2006, Amendment 41 has stirred controversy due to language that critics call vague. Critics also say the amendment creates unintended impacts such as preventing government officials from receiving inheritances or educational scholarships for their children.
On May 31, Denver District Judge Christina Habas issued a temporary injunction stopping enforcement of Amendment 41. Gov. Bill Ritter plans to appeal the ruling.
The result of Ritter's appeal may not matter locally.
"The requirements of this article shall not apply to home rule counties or home rule municipalities that have adopted charters, ordinances or resolutions that address the matters covered by this article," Amendment 41 reads.
The city ordinance attempts to address ethical matters by giving "clear direction regarding what is and what is not prohibited" when it comes to gifts for city officials.
The ordinance prohibits city officials from receiving gifts that would "improperly influence" city officials; are solicited or given to reward a city official for a specific action; or are offered from an individual with a pending application, land use permit or liquor license request.
The ordinance allows city officials to receive 16 categories of gifts, including scholarships, specific tokens of appreciation, travel expenses, campaign contributions and tickets to recreational, sporting or cultural events.
"I think there's a lot of employees as well as elected officials who want to be able to comfortably take a scholarship," City Councilman Ken Brenner said. "There are a lot of provisions in Amendment 41 that I think a lot of people want clarified."
Brenner received public criticism in February for allegations that he requested or accepted free gifts from Haymaker Golf Course and the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Golf and ski officials refuted those allegations.
City Council expenses as a whole have nearly tripled since 2003, primarily due to increasing amounts of expenses for travel, lodging, meals and registration fees at conferences and seminars in Denver and across the Western Slope.
City Clerk Julie Jordan, who has served in that capacity since 1995, said in March that "this group of council (members) has become more active with representing interests of the city throughout the state."
In November 2006, voters in the city of Steamboat Springs cast 1,739 ballots in favor of Amendment 41 and 1,299 ballots against. Routt County also supported the amendment, with 4,263 votes in favor and 3,214 votes against.
"I voted for Amendment 41 also," Brenner said Friday. "But it's so vague that it's going to take a whole series of court cases, or more appropriately a second amendment in 2008.
"What you have here (in the ordinance) is simply a clarification of what we think is intended by good ethical behavior. Clarifying some of the provisions in Amendment 41 is to everybody's advantage."
The ordinance is scheduled for a second, final reading June 19.