2010 Colorado Elections: The state Attorney Regulation and Disciplinary Council finds the Scott McInnis’ water articles plagiarism was not an ethics violation

A picture named rainbowfallsmanitousprings1879

Last summer Scott McInnis’s campaign imploded from the news that some of the work he had done for the Hasan Family Foundation was plagiarized. Journalist Jason Salzman (Bigmedia.org) stayed with his investigation into the candidate’s writings and the rest is Colorado political history. It’s too late for Mr. McInnis to challenge Governor Hickenlooper but he probably welcomes today’s news. Here’s a report from Sara Burnett writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Regulation Counsel John Gleason said new evidence and follow-up interviews with witnesses revealed no “clear and convincing evidence” that McInnis, an attorney, violated disciplinary rules…

Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint with the ARDC, which investigates attorneys for violations of court rules and the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct…

[McInnis researcher Rollie Fischer] told the ARDC that he alone copied Hobbs’ work without crediting him, that he didn’t tell McInnis he had done so, and that he expected McInnis to publish the work as his own.

More coverage from John Tomasic writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

“We’re satisfied that [the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel] did a very thorough investigation of the matter,” Colorado Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro told the Colorado Independent. “They took their time to look closely at the material and deposed two witnesses. We’re glad that they put a period on this story. The public gains in transparency for its having done the investigation.”

More coverage from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The attorney regulation counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court declined to pursue disciplinary action against McInnis, documents obtained by The Daily Sentinel said. Copies of the same documents also were posted on the http://www.scribd.com

Letters signed by John S. Gleason, who heads the office of attorney regulation, said the incident that shattered McInnis’ attempt for the Republican nomination for governor, was the result of a series of forgotten conversations and emails among the principals, including officials of the Hasan Foundation, which demanded that McInnis repay $300,000 he had been paid for the articles…

While Fischer and the foundation provided contradictory accounts at the time the issue was raised, “a more thorough review of their archived materials demonstrates that both had forgotten several specific communications with Mr. McInnis that had occurred several years before,” Gleason wrote.

More coverage from Gene Davis writing for Law Week Colorado. Here’s an excerpt:

The regulatory counsel interviewed several key witnesses in the incident, including water expert Rolly Fischer, who McInnis says he hired to help research the issue. McInnis blames the plagiarism on research provided to him by Fischer. McInnis and the Hasan Foundation last summer reached a settlement agreement to repay the organization, though McInnis maintained that his only error was trusting Fischer. As part of the attorney regulatory counsel’s investigation, an investigator scoured through handwritten notes and personal e-mails, as well as interviews with witnesses. According to the counsel’s findings, Fischer was responsible for the plagiarism, not McInnis. “Mr. Fischer alone chose to import large sections of text previously written by the Honorable Justice Gregory Hobbs into one of the articles drafted for Mr. McInnis, without credit citation,” states the results of the investigation.

Fischer apparently argued that the use was not plagiarism because he believes the article is part of the “public domain,” according to the investigation, compiled from interviews with Fischer. Fischer had never disclosed to McInnis that he had taken Hobbs’ work, according to the report.

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

McInnis blamed the plagiarism on Rolly Fischer, whom he had enlisted as an assistant for his water writings. Fischer claimed he believed Hobbs’ writings were in the public domain. A review of correspondence between McInnis and Fischer conducted by the Attorney Regulation Counsel found that in 2005 “McInnis had instructed Mr. Fischer not to plagiarize any work in the articles he drafted,” according to the counsel’s letter of findings. It also noted that: Fischer “alone chose large sections of text” from Hobbs’ writings and passed them along to McInnis for publication without attributing it to Hobbs. Fischer did not inform McInnis that he had imported Hobbs’ work for the articles. Fischer expected McInnis to treat the articles as his own without providing any credit to Fischer.

More coverage from Fox31.com (Eli Stokols):

On Monday, McInnis’s defenders viewed the findings as an exoneration and an opportunity to question the journalism of the Denver Post, which broke the story of how McInnis, in 2005, was paid $300,000 by the Hasan Foundation to write a series of articles on water, a job he pawned off on a researcher, Rollie Fischer, who plagiarized portions of the articles from 1983 essays by current Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs…

The Post’s publisher, Dean Singleton, defended the paper’s reporting in a radio interview Monday afternoon and even insinuated that the emails used to clear McInnis’s name might have been forged by McInnis himself. “He didn’t produce them [earlier] because they probably didn’t exist,” Singleton said in an interview on the Caplis and Silverman show.”

More coverage from Jason Salzman writing for Huffpost Denver. From the article:

It turns out that an attorney connected to the Colorado Supreme Court conducted an investigation, at the behest of Colorado Ethics Watch, on whether McInnis’ behavior meets the lawyerly snuff test. His investigation, indeed, cleans up McInnis a bit, but it doesn’t clear his name, unless you believe throwing people under buses is a good idea…

So Gleason clears McInnis of dishonest lawyerly conduct. But does it clear him of slimy, squeezy, mean politican conduct? Does it make his conduct look, ah, gubernatorial, if I can use that word there?[…]

If so, if McInnis thought this would Shyne up his image, McInnis still doesn’t get it. His mistake was throwing his research assistant under the bus. He could have survived the plagiarism, probably. But his handling of it sunk his campaign. He can’t clear his name of those mistakes. That was his problem then, and that’s what he’s going to have to live with.

More coverage from the Colorado Statesman (Ernest Luning). From the article:

In letters sent last week to McInnis’ attorneys and to Colorado Ethics Watch — the liberal watchdog group that filed a complaint over the matter last summer — regulation counsel John S. Gleason said his office’s investigation revealed that “there is no clear and convincing evidence Mr. McInnis knowingly engaged in dishonest conduct.”

The report arrived 10 months after revelations in a Denver Post story threw the state Republican Party into turmoil. In the months that followed, McInnis, a former six-term congressman, lost the Republican nomination for governor to a rookie politician named Dan Maes, but only after another former Republican congressman, Tom Tancredo, tried to force both from the race. When that failed, Tancredo bolted the party and ran under the banner of the previously obscure American Constitution Party, finishing in second place behind Democrat John Hickenlooper…

Gleason also concluded that, “based on our interview with Ms. Hasan and our review of the documents she provided to us, including contemporaneous emails between her and Mr. McInnis, it is also clear Mr. McInnis notified her of his retention of Mr. Fischer as a research assistant.” Not so fast, said the woman who heads the foundation that paid McInnis $300,000 to spread the word on water – and then got a full refund when the plagiarized passages came to light last year. Hasan disputed Gleason’s characterization of the documents she said the foundation provided to investigators. It’s true a previously undisclosed document came to light, said Seeme Hasan, the foundation’s president, in an interview with The Statesman this week. But it wasn’t an email and it didn’t describe Fischer as a “research assistant.”

What the foundation’s attorneys turned over to the OARC was a fax cover sheet that had been buried in boxes of foundation documents for years, she said. It accompanied an article McInnis submitted in June 2005 and included the handwritten note, “I feel very good about the articles and the goal of serving the public interest. On a regular basis I have been assisted by Rolly Fischer, and his confidence that we are reaching our goal is high as well.” Hasan said that was the only mention McInnis made of Fischer in any of their correspondence and hardly qualifies as the kind of disclosure the OARC claims it is. “As far as I’m concerned, it did not say research assistant, it did not say co-author, it did not say he would help me write, it just said assistant,” Hasan said. “That could mean the assistant who faxes his papers.”[…]

After learning of the OARC’s decision, Hasan said she was ready to lay the matter to rest, even though she disagreed with the counsel’s finding. “Our conclusion is unchanged, because we were told that this was all original, and then last summer he acknowledged himself it was not all original,” she said…

“He has paid the foundation back, what’s been done has been done,” Hasan said. “But in my mind, it doesn’t take away what happened. I’m not sitting in his mind — I don’t know what he was thinking — but I am confident that some of the articles he sent to me, he had never even read them, he had never even looked at them. If he had looked at them, he would have been appalled.”[…]

“We’re pleased that there was an investigation that brought out these facts on this issue of public concern,” said Ethics Watch director Luis Toro. “We think that they exercised their discretion and we’re not going to challenge it based on a full investigation.”

More Scott McInnis coverage here. More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Snowpack/runoff news: Slow onset of runoff leads to impressive snowpack totals — South Platte basin = 236% of average

A picture named snowpackcolorado05232011

I’ve been trying to get some perspective on the massive snowpack numbers we’re seeing around most of Colorado this year so I’ve been emailing lately with the National Resources Conservation Service.

Mike Gillespie tells me that, while accurate, the numbers are a percent of average for the snowpack on this date. Since the runoff is so reluctant to come out of the mountains this year the delayed onset skews the snowpack totals.

His recommendation is to look at the current peak as compared with the average peak. I went online to check and the South Platte basin’s current peak as a percent of average peak is a still impressive 146%.

It’s going to be a good year to store water.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (Scott Kersgaard). Click through for the great photo of the National Park Service plowing up on Trail Ridge Road. Here’s an excerpt:

The skiing is still good at those Colorado resorts still open. The views to the west from Denver are still of freshly snow-packed mountains. Colorado finally has some moisture. All is good, in other words. Perhaps. If it all melts at once, though, Colorado and other Western states could be in for a world of hurt.

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) rally for proponents draws 300 people

A picture named nisppreferredalternative.jpg

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

Fort Morgan, which is one of 15 municipalities and water districts that have helped fund the project thus far, was represented at the rally by Councilmen Jim Powers and Brent Nation. Also there from Fort Morgan were Water Advisory Board member Bill Baker, Water Resources Director Gary Dreessen, Water Treatment Plant Superintendent John Turner, Quality Water District General Manager Mark Kokes and city resident Don Ostwald, as well as Morgan County resident Brad Wind…

Northern Water Conservancy District General Manager Eric Wilkinson kicked things off with some good news for the project, telling the crowd that the latest round of environmental studies “are finding that the impacts of NISP are much less” than previously thought…

“If we are going to (grow the northeast Colorado economy), the only way to sustain it long term is to build water storage,” [Congressman Cory Gardner] said. “That is why NISP is especially important.” The congressman, who spoke at previous rallies for the project when he was in the state legislature, passionately talked about the water that would be stored there helping agricultural communities to thrive while also providing the lifeblood of growing centers. “Construction of NISP will mark when we no longer rely on the past, but create our future,” he told the crowd, adding that the state`s business future depends on “a better water future.”[…]

Agland CEO Mitch Anderson took a darker approach, warning people, “If we don`t do things like this, we need to be prepared to send people around the world to fight the unrest caused by food shortages.”

More NISP coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit update: The communities east of Pueblo are starting to plan for the project

A picture named arkansasvalleyconduitproposed.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is forging ahead with the 40 communities east of Pueblo that will be part of the conduit — a 130-mile line that will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people. “Some of what we are figuring out is making sure everyone is in the game,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “People are asking valid questions, and we don’t have all the answers. The biggest issue is sitting down to communicate. It’s hard to get people to understand what occurs 50 years in the future.”[…]

The district spent the last few weeks working out agreements with conduit participants to pay the local costs of an environmental impact study being developed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. To gain time to find some answers to questions that were raised, the district postponed a meeting that was to be Tuesday until sometime in June. The $4.6 million study also is looking at a master excess-capacity storage contract for Lake Pueblo that includes some conduit participants and 12 other participants who are not part of the conduit. The study will determine the best route for the conduit, as well as identify impacts to the Arkansas River.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.