Sunday, 3 Jul 2022

Investigation into Colorado judicial scandal finds unethical behavior, but no contract-for-silence deal

Allegations that top judicial officials gave a nearly $3 million contract to a former administrator to ensure she did not speak publicly about judges’ misconduct are false, an independent investigation found Wednesday.

Evidence shows the contract was not awarded as a quid-pro-quo to ensure the administrator’s silence, according to an investigative report released Wednesday and authored by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer and former Denver independent monitor Nick Mitchell.

The investigation did find “unethical behavior demonstrated in the approval of the contract,” the 70-page report says, as well as an internal toxic work culture within the State Court Administrator’s Office, a lack of accountability and “overly permissive” procurement rules, coupled with “critical errors in judgment” and “outright misconduct” by judicial officials.

“The contract was ill-advised, did not serve the interests of Coloradans, and should never have been approved,” the report reads.

State Court Administrator Chris Ryan alleged in early 2021 that court officials agreed in 2019 to give a nearly $3 million contract to a former top administrator — ex-chief of staff Mindy Masias — to ensure she did not speak publicly about misconduct by judges after she left the department.

He said Masias was prepared to make public allegations of sexual misconduct, including that one judge sent a pornographic email on his work account and that another “rubbed his hairy chest” on a female employee’s back, according to a memo penned in 2018.

Facing termination over financial irregularities that year, Ryan said Masias told officials she wanted a “softer landing,” so to ensure her silence, judicial officials wrote up a contract for training and tailored it so that only Masias’ newly formed firm would qualify. He resigned in 2019.

The scandal rocked the judicial department after it was made public last year and sparked at least six investigations. Two were commissioned by the Judicial Department itself. The organization hired RCT Ltd. to examine the circumstances surrounding the $2.75 million contract.

Additionally, the department hired Investigations Law Group to examine claims of judicial misconduct and widespread harassment and sexism within the court system. That investigation was delayed by overwhelming response — more than 100 people sought to speak with investigators — and is expected to finish by July 29.

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

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