Aurora City Council approves new ethics law, opposes lobbying registration

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AURORA | Despite taking other legislative steps toward greater transparency, a majority of Aurora City Council members decided against an ordinance mandating lobbyists register with the city if working in Aurora.

Council members Bob Roth, Johnny Watson, Marsha Berzins, Francoise Bergan, Charlie Richardson and mayor Bob LeGare opposed the proposed ordinance.

At-large councilwoman Angela Lawson, who also works for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, first introduced the idea to a city policy committee in October.

LeGare said he didn’t believe the ordinance was ready, but council member Nicole Johnston rebutted that claim citing Lawson’s past year of work.

None of the other council members who voted against the measure — all of which are running for re-election — gave a reason for their vote.

The registration wouldn’t have limited or penalized lobbyists or city officials for interacting with each other. It would instruct lobbyists to file quarterly reports about their lobbying efforts, however.

Those reporters would disclose “any expenditure over $75 directly benefiting a covered official,” according to city documents. “This does not prohibit expenditures over $75, it only requires reporting.”

Several city council members cited concerns of who would qualify as a lobbyist and whether non-profit organizations attempting to seek influence on the city council would be required to register under the proposed rules. 

Under the ordinance, lobbyists were defined to be “any individual, including an attorney, who is self-employed or is employed or otherwise retained by any other person or organization: (1) For the purpose of engaging in lobbying; or (2) Whose scope of work requires him or her to lobby from time to time time.”

During the meeting, the body unanimously gave a final approval to a new ethics code for elected city officials. 

The now-approved ordinance is the result of two different proposals from several city council members who sought stronger ethics rules for elected officials of the city. 

It tasks an independent panel of judges with investigating ethical complaints, prohibits the mayor and city council members from accepting gifts valued more than $300, and prevents council members from engaging in conflicts of interest.

During the council’s meeting, members also approved a unified development ordinance and granted a one-time sum of $400,000 to the GOALS program, a homelessness program based in the former Excelsior Youth Campus.