Colorado’s House Bill 18-1427 to eliminate conflicts of interests within the state’s Sex Offender Management Board seemed like a sure thing.
The measure had not only bipartisan support but also support of D.A.’s that prosecute sex offenders and the ACLU. Isn’t this the “dream team” that government wants, all sides coming together for the good of the people and agreeing to support a bill.
So on Monday, when Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper suddenly “VETOED” the legislation which was aimed at eliminating anything that could be perceived as a “conflict of interest” within the Sex Offender Treatment Board, it left many scratching their heads.
Why the veto?
Governor Hickenlooper called the bill “redundant and overbroad.” (I wonder if he’s ever considered the “over broadness” of the registry)?
The Governor’s concern was that the bill would remove much needed experts from state boards and commissions.
Well, yes Governor, that’s the whole point, to remove those experts that are profiting in some way from the very policies they set, such as those that have contracts with the state, say for example those that provide polygraphs or other testing of sex offenders. Yes, it would remove all of those experts who, when they were vetted for their positions, mentioned or maybe failed to mention that they stood to personally profit in some way by being on the Sex Offender Treatment Board.
In Colorado one of the board members was a polygraph examiner whose company consistently collected the largest share of public funds spent on sex offender polygraphs, he was chair of the board’s polygraph committee which set testing standards for offenders. (This included pricing and frequency of testing). In Tennessee, a member of the Sex Offender Treatment Board is company owner and developer of a visual assessment exam given to sex offenders.
While Colorado’s Governor acknowledges that all state boards and commissions need to understand the meaning of “conflict of interest”, his solution was to veto Bill 18-1427 and instead seek an “independent review of the board and it’s operations.”
Now wait a minute. The fact that a bill was sought out in the first place would suggest to anyone with a brain that this issue has already been reviewed and that the findings were that there was plenty of “conflict of interest” occurring within the state boards and commissions, enough to warrant passage of a bill.
Why now spend more money on an independent review to present to legislators in 2019? Isn’t that “redundant”?
Colorado Dept. of Public Safety/CDPS oversees the Sex Offender Management Board. CDPS executive director Stan Hilkey stated that “the board is effective because of vast wealth of knowledge and perspective provided by the 25 experts who give their time to serve on the board”. (I wanted to play my tiny violin when I read this). The fact is that while board members “volunteer” their time some of those do-gooders have been financially profiting from their board positions.
Victim advocacy groups applauded the veto, they thought the “overly broad bill” might strip away the expertise that makes the sex offender management board so effective. (Do the victims rights groups ever wonder about the “overly broad nature of the registry”)?
Sterling Harris, chief deputy director of the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance felt the legislation had been “rushed through” at the end of the last legislative session and that the process didn’t allow stakeholders to discuss potential impact of the bill in front of legislators who had voted to pass it. (Usually it’s bills, laws and town ordinances getting “rushed through” before sex offenders can voice the potential impact these regulations have on their world. Gee stakeholders, it doesn’t feel very good when the shoe is on the other foot now does it)?
I noticed that Sterling Harris had to go for the scare factor by throwing in the boogey man line “We’re talking about convicted sex offenders, these are very different than other types of criminals.”
If Ms. Harris means that they’ve all been painted with that “overbroad paintbrush” then yes, in that respect, they are different, but I think Ms. Sterling was aiming for the “all sex offenders are monsters” kind of different.
Ms. Harris goes on to expound on the “loss of expertise, like if you had board members who were maybe retired who had once been active in the field but who had now lost touch with some of the best practices, that would ultimately lead to the erosion of the board’s effectiveness and erosion of the standards that are crucial for monitoring.” I’m not quite sure what it is that she’s trying to say here but it sort of sounds like she doesn’t want any retired professionals on the board because they probably haven’t kept up with current trends in practice. Can we say ageist?
The good news in all of this is that Representative Leslie Herod, one of the sponsors of the bill, says her efforts to raise concerns about the Sex Offender Management Board won’t stop with this veto. The sponsors of the bill are going forward with a new request to audit the entire Sex Offender Management Board to see where all the issues lie, not just those that are conflict of interest. (Since the Governor didn’t go for the bill and instead went for the veto, now might as well go for the whole enchilada!)
According to Ms. Herod, “right now we’ve got the fox guarding the henhouse and it has to stop.”
And all of this ties in with conflicts of interest in Tennessee.
I emailed a House Representative with my concerns that a member of Tennessee’s Sex Offender Treatment Board was also owner of the company that provides visual assessments for Tennessee sex offenders, a conflict of interest. The Representative forwarded my email to The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. The Commissioner’s office notified me that they would look into it but that it’s not their policy to notify me regarding the outcome of their investigation. Upon further investigative research on my part, I found that the Commissioner for the Department of Corrections is the very person who appointed the board member in question to his position on the board!
So how far do you think that investigation will get?
I don’t know, I’m skeptical, but before I read about all this Colorado Craziness, I had just emailed the Tennessee Governor and the House Representative to alert them to the fact that it seems we have a “fox guarding the henhouse” here in Tennessee.