Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper's ethics trial will still proceed as scheduled next week despite the former Colorado governor's objections to it being conducted by video, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission ruled Wednesday.
Hickenlooper has been accused of violating state limits on gifts and travel for elected officials by allegedly accepting free private flights and luxury hotel stays from donors and corporations during his time in office.
Hickenlooper objected to the remote hearing scheduled for June 4, saying it would violate his due process rights if he is unable to testify in person with his attorney present. He filed a motion with the ethics commission last week saying he would "not appear at the hearing as it is now scheduled" and threatening to sue if the hearing is not delayed.
But the ethics commission rejected Hickenlooper's motion and his alternative suggestion that he be allowed to submit his testimony in writing.
"The [commission] finds that Respondent's suggested solution of submitting written testimony in lieu of a hearing would fall short of procedural due process requirements and is plainly an attempt to avoid appearing at hearing," said the ruling.
The Public Trust Institute, the government watchdog that filed the initial ethics complaint against Hickenlooper, said on Thursday that it will subpoena the former governor to testify at the ethics hearing, which is still slated to take place by video on June 4. The group said Hickenlooper already agreed to participate in the hearing last January and he needs to "come out of hiding."
"Everyone agrees that in a perfect world this hearing would take place in person. People across the country are dealing with new realties caused by the health crisis, including virtually every court across the country moving to an online hearing platform," said PTI director Suzanne Staiert in a statement. "John Hickenlooper is not above the law and he is not above the inconveniences we are dealing with. The complaint was filed over 18 months ago and John Hickenlooper needs to just stop playing games and tell the truth for one hour to finalize this issue."
The Hickenlooper campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against Hickenlooper in 2018 alleging that he violated state laws that cap gifts to public officials at $59 while serving as governor. The complaint claims Hickenlooper accepted a corporate-sponsored trip to Italy that included luxury hotels and a chauffeured Maserati. He also allegedly took a free private flight on a donor's jet to attend the commissioning of the USS Colorado in Groton, Conn.
Hickenlooper's ethics hearing was scheduled to take place earlier this year but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The former governor is considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the Colorado Senate race. If he wins the primary on June 30, he will face off against incumbent Republican senator Cory Gardner.
Update 7:11 p.m.: This post has been updated with further information.