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Denver, Colorado

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Linda Chalat
Linda Chalat
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Moonlighting Colorado Elected Officials

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The newly elected Colorado secretary of state says his $68,500 annual salary represents a pay cut of more than 50 percent from his old law firm job. So Scott Gessler, a Republican, plans to continue working for the Hackstaff Law Group, on a contract basis, for 20 hours per month, according to the Denver Business Journal.

Oh, his law firm focuses on election law. He said he wouldn’t be handling election-related cases in his contract work and insisted that, as secretary of state, he would treat his old law firm the same as any other with business before the office.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler said this week that he willl reveal who his legal clients are if he ends up moonlighting for his old law firm while working in his new elected position. He would likely earn less than a third of his state salary with his contract work with Hackstaff, he said. Gessler said that while his is the only income in the household, his wife may end up getting a job.

The revelation that Gessler would be moonlighting brought criticism from groups that said his old firm, which specializes in election and campaign issues, would have business before the secretary of state’s office, creating at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Gessler has asked the attorney general’s office to review his plans. But that would be Attorney General John Suthers, another Republican whose state salary is $80,000, which he supplements by teaching classes at the University of Denver and at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Through a spokesman, Suthers said he earns $20,000-$30,000 per year teaching.

And then there is state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, whose position pays $68,500. He campaigned against the former secretary of state, Cary Kennedy, accusing her being a full-time elected official her entire professional career. Evidently, Stapleton does not plan to be a full-time elected official even for his first term as Treasurer. He has agreed to an occasional consulting job for his former employer, California-based real estate company SonomaWest Holdings Inc. Alas, Stapleton, a Republican and the company’s former executive officer, said he would be getting $250 an hour providing his "irreplaceable skill set as the executive officer of a very specialized real estate company." Stapleton and his family own the largest stake in the company, but there also are publicly traded shares.

In addition to the conflict of interest concerns, there is the obvious question regarding the ability of these elected officials to perform the duties of their respective offices while working as a lawyer, professor or consultant.

When Gessler was asked whether he would have the time for outside work, his response was given by The Denver Post as: "I think what’s going to benefit the state of Colorado is not whether the secretary of state is worrying about whether every toilet in the building flushes correctly, but rather, whether or not they (the secretary of state) make the correct policy decisions and motivate people to work in the right directions that are going to help the people of Colorado."

At a time when Colorado’s unemployment rate tied a record 8.8 percent in December, some guys just aren’t satisfied with a single job.