Investigations into alleged judicial misconduct continue as Colorado signs deals | government
The Colorado Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it had signed two contracts for independent investigations into allegations of widespread misconduct across the industry, which included a quid pro quo deal with a former senior official who threatened a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination and betrayal all.
The contracts, totaling no more than $350,000, were awarded to the Investigations Law Group to investigate the department’s culture regarding sexual harassment and women, and to RCT Ltd. for a $2.5 million award deal granted to former department chief of staff Mindy Masias in 2019 — ostensibly to stop a looming lawsuit.
“Investigations into both matters will begin immediately,” Chief Justice Brian Boatright said in a press release. “We expect the process to take several months and will provide timely updates as often as possible.”
ILG’s bid proposal said that a third concern was evident: public trust in the judiciary.
“Perhaps the most important question is the unspoken one – whether the public can trust the Justice Department to take this issue seriously and not just ‘check the box’ or go through the applications to address reported issues in the justice workplace,” the cover letter says.
RCT’s bid, led by former US Attorney for Colorado Robert Troyer, promised a thorough and objective investigation, citing his work investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by Catholic priests in Colorado.
Boatright called for an independent investigation in February after newspaper reports uncovered a secret memo allegedly at the root of the Masias contract. Masias, who has not spoken publicly about the deal, was facing dismissal at the time and allegedly threatened to sue for sex discrimination for not getting the job as the department’s chief court clerk – his highest civilian position. The threats included disclosing the contents of the two-page memo, which detailed more than two dozen allegations of misconduct by judges and other department officials.
A panel of legislators and other state officials was assembled by the governor, the attorney general and leaders of the legislature to determine the scope of the investigation and later, following a public bidding process, select companies to be hired from a pool of eight submissions.
At the center of the investigation is the two-page memo that then-Chief Personnel Director Eric Brown, a close Masias associate, read to then-Chief Justice Nathan “Ben” Coats at a January 2019 meeting. Then-Chief Court Administrator Christopher Ryan, who also attended the hearing, said it was decided the contract was a way to prevent Masias from suing. Although it was publicly advertised, none of about 400 companies offered one, neither did Masias. She resigned in mid-March 2019, and within days the department decided she would be awarded the exclusive supply deal with a newly formed company – The Leadership Practice.
According to the ministry, the last of the two contracts was signed on Monday, the first in mid-October after months of negotiations.
“As the investigation is allowed to proceed, this serves as a reminder that the entire Judiciary is expected to cooperate with investigators’ inquiries and inquiries,” Boatright said in the release. “As previously promised, the results of the investigations and the investigators’ recommendations will be taken seriously and made public. I sincerely hope that recommendations will be made on steps for critical improvement in the future.”
Six other companies submitted proposals, including WilmerHale, whose investigation would have been led by former US Attorney for Colorado John Walsh, and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which relies on former US Attorney for Colorado Jason Dunn and former Boulder County District Attorney , Stan Garnett, to conduct her investigation.
As a result of the memo, which the judges only released after newspaper reports, four more independent investigations were launched. An investigation by the state auditor will likely be the first to be completed, beginning immediately after the memo’s release and dovetailing with an ongoing investigation into a whistleblower’s allegations of misconduct across the department. Additional investigations include one by the Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel, the Judicial Disciplinary Commission and the FBI.
David Migoya can be reached at [email protected]
David is a Senior Investigative Reporter at The Gazette and has worked in Colorado for more than two decades. His work has been recognized by Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Society of Business Editors and Writers, the National Association of Real Estate Editors at the National Headliner Awards, among others. He has worked for publications in New York City, St. Louis, Detroit and Denver during his journalism career, which began in 1982.