More than a month after eight companies submitted bids to investigate Colorado’s judicial department – and five months after The Denver Post exposed the problems that led to the inquiry – officials are little closer to getting it all underway.
A committee of eight people including two senators, three state representatives, and three others named by the governor and attorney general have met a handful of times to review the proposals, but there’s no specific timeline to choose who’ll do the job and no one’s offering details about how long it could take.
None of the eight – Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Commerce City, Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, gubernatorial chief legal counsel Jacki Cooper Melmed, Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration chief Kara Veitch, and Deputy Attorney General Maritza Dominguez Braswell – has offered any information to The Post’s requests for an update.
At least one person familiar with the process said the committee has met infrequently, in part because the legislative session ended June 8. More than 70 companies from 16 states downloaded information about the contract, many of them local law firms.
Lee and Gardner referred the newspaper’s questions to the department’s procurement division, which is handling the request for proposal. The division did not respond to several emails from The Post.
A department spokesman on Tuesday said the process is ongoing after earlier saying he had no information because it was being handled outside the normal protocol in order to keep the process independent.
“The panel is reviewing the proposals and will make recommendations of an entity or entities with whom we’ll begin negotiating a contract or contracts,” spokesman Jon Sarche said in an email. “We’ll announce the contract awardee(s) upon execution of the contract(s). There is no set timeline for that to happen.”
There is also no timeline for how long the investigation can take. It will pay as much as $350,000 for the inquiry.
“Recognizing that five of the eight members of the selection committee are legislators whose session recently concluded due to COVID-19 delays, it likely has been a challenge for the committee to move more quickly on this part of the process,” said Gina Glockner, president of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association. “We are eager to see the inquiry commence, and we understand it is critical that the selection panel is allowed the time necessary to ensure that the selected firm(s) will conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation.”
The panel drafted the request for bidders to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination within the judicial branch that former Chief of Staff Mindy Masias allegedly was prepared to make public in her own sexual discrimination lawsuit, according to a memo drafted in early 2019 by the division’s former human resources director Eric Brown.
Masias faced termination for financial irregularities but instead was awarded a sole-source $2.5 million contract for judicial training, according to the department’s former chief administrator. That contract was canceled amid a Denver Post investigation into the deal.
The memo only became public in February after stories by The Post revealed its existence.
Chief Justice Brian Boatright called for an independent inquiry before a joint session of the legislature soon afterward, promising that the results would be public.
A separate investigation for fraud by the state auditor is also ongoing, but its results are public only if charges are filed or the Judicial Department chooses to release it.
The memo included allegations of a chief justice ordering the destruction of an anonymous letter charging sexism and harassment, two district judges who later were named chief separately sharing pornographic videos on judicial email, the cover-up of a law clerk’s harassment allegations in order to keep “safe” a Court of Appeals judge who was a candidate for the Supreme Court, and a district judge rubbing his bared chest on the back of a female employee.
The memo also contained other allegations, including the destruction of evidence and payoffs to silence victims.
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