Colorado Judicial Department conducted internal ruse to keep cover on $ 2.5 million contract, sources say – The Denver Post

Colorado Judicial Department officials were so determined to keep the lid on a $ 2.5 million contract going to his former chief of staff in early 2019 that they launched an internal ruse on how a judge to the retreat was in fact the target beneficiary, according to several people familiar with the events.

The department awarded Mindy Masias the five-year contract for judicial training in June 2019, allegedly to avoid a sex discrimination lawsuit in which she threatened to expose the misconduct of several judges and department officials, the Denver reported. Post. At the time, Masias was fired due to financial irregularities, but had been on personal medical leave for months. The contract was canceled amid the newspaper’s investigation into the case.

The contract and allegations of misconduct are the focus of three investigations.

The reason for the secrecy, according to the interviews, was to ensure that senior finance officials in the department who reportedly strongly objected to Masias getting the lucrative deal were not alerted and could not derail the deal.

Additionally, the department intentionally waited to sign the contract until two key Masias critics left the department – one due to a reorganization and one due to retirement, The Post three people knowing the contract.

Details of how ministry officials manipulated the procurement process to ensure the contract was awarded to Masias are only emerging now as investigators dig into claims it was a quid-pro-quo deal to silence the potential trial. People familiar with the process would only discuss details with The Post if their names were not disclosed, as they are not authorized to disclose them publicly and would face ministerial disciplinary action.

Critics that department officials were trying to avoid – CFO David Kribs and Comptroller Myra Dukes – lobbied then Chief Justice Nathan “Ben” Coats and the court administrator of the era, Christopher Ryan, in November 2018 to fire Masias rather than suspend her for reasons of concern. reimbursement requests she had made months earlier.

Instead, Ryan met in January 2019 with Coats, attorney for Chief Justice Andrew Rottman and then HR director Eric Brown, and they decided Masias would get the training contract, said. Ryan at the Post.

The ministry had already decided to revamp its judicial training and hire someone with experience working with a judiciary and judges. Masias’ 23-year tenure in the department and his extensive knowledge of forensic training would have been a natural fit. The contract was to be managed by the department’s human resources division, which Masias once headed with Brown as his deputy.

Brown wanted to give Masias the contract up front, Ryan said, but Ryan insisted he go through a public tendering process. Brown’s original draft of the qualifications needed for a bidder to receive the contract was so tightly drafted, Ryan said, that few companies could qualify.

Ryan said he sat down with the ministry’s public procurement official, John Kane, and the ministry’s legal adviser, Terri Morrison, to modify the proposal and make his qualifications less restrictive in the hope that at least a public offer would be received.

“It couldn’t be written too narrowly for no one to apply,” Ryan said. “We certainly had (the contract) suited what we were looking for, but not so much that no one would respond. “

More than 400 companies have been associated with the contract, according to the state’s procurement system, and nearly two dozen companies have uploaded information about it.

When the proposal was made public in January 2019, the ministry suspended its own normal communication to businesses to generate offers, according to interviews.

“Kane (the purchasing agent) told me that he had been approached by Brown and told not to tell anyone, including me, that the idea was that they were having someone headed for the leadership training contract and told him it was a retired judge, ”Kribs told The Post. “It was originally supposed to be so restrictive that no one would apply and this judge could get it. “

There would be no offer from the judge because he was uncomfortable making one, Kribs said. The hope was to disqualify all bidders and ensure that the outgoing judge would then get the contract as sole source, Kribs said.

Ryan said he was unaware of the retired judge’s plan but later heard about it from Kane. It is not known if Coats was aware of the plan and he has declined any public comment.

Kane told the Post he would cooperate with investigators. But he offered no further comment and did not respond to a request for an interview.

Kribs said he approached Morrison (the legal adviser) to discuss what Kane told him, still unaware that Masias was the intended recipient.

“I told him what I heard and that such a narrow approach was not tenable, that it would open us to appeals or lawsuits by any company that bid,” Kribs said. “I got a glance from her, and she said we’re not supposed to talk about it. They already knew what they were doing at that time.

In the end, no company submitted an offer. Several companies told The Post they felt the criteria were too narrowly focused for them to qualify.

In the meantime, Masias had filed a reservation for a company name – The Leadership Practice – with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on January 2, 2019, according to records, but she did not formally start the company until March 14, 2019. the day before his resignation from the department. She did not bid on the contract.

The day after Masias officially resigned, Brown submitted a formal request to Ryan for a sole-source contract to be awarded to Masias, The Post reported.

In an independent move, Kribs left the department around the same time due to an internal reorganization.

Weeks passed before the plot was revealed. A lawyer from the department responsible for drafting the documents noticed that the contract was actually awarded to Masias. The lawyer alerted Kane, who went to see Dukes, the controller.

“John (Kane) is coming to tell me what’s really going on,” Dukes said in a telephone interview, noting that his office was adjacent to Kane’s. “We couldn’t say anything because we weren’t supposed to know.” Dukes said she waited to see the documents go through the normal departmental routing process for her signature, but she never saw any.

It was because there was no one to see. With Kribs leaving, officials waited until Dukes retired, Ryan said, before the deal was made.

Ryan signed the contract with Masias on June 3, 2019, three days after Dukes left, according to a copy of the document.

Source link

About the author