Gov. Ritter steered stimulus money to ex-employer
July 10, 2009
DENVER – Gov. Bill Ritter has awarded some of the state’s first stimulus money to his former employer in a no-bid contract.Ritter hired his former law firm, Washington-based Hogan & Hartson, in a no-bid contract to review stimulus spending, The Denver Post reported Friday. It said the firm was paid $40,000 in stimulus money through June.Aides to the governor insisted the contract was properly awarded after they received approval from Attorney General John Suthers.Geoff Blue, a spokesman for Suthers, said an attorney for Ritter never asked if there was a conflict of interest.”They said, ‘Look, you’d have to do all the legal work involving stimulus dollars. We need to hire outside help because we don’t think you can do it,'” he said.”We said, ‘OK, fine.’ We didn’t address who was hired, how they were hired or what the contract said,” Blue told The Associated Press.Blue said the attorney general’s office could have done the work for $75 an hour instead of the $450 hour Ritter’s office paid for the same work.Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s spokesman, said Blue was correct and Suthers did not address the other issues.Under state procurement rules, state agencies are allowed to set their own limits for “small purchases,” but none of those rules apply to elected officials.Ritter worked for the Denver office of Hogan & Hartson in 2005, leaving the following year when he ran for governor. The law firm has about 1,300 lawyers across the country and specializes in public finance, real estate, white-collar litigation and environmental and governmental regulation.Many of Hogan’s lawyers are Ritter supporters, and two who work directly on the state’s stimulus issues are contributors.A managing partner for the firm, Cole Finegan, told the Post that the work was of “tremendous importance.” Colorado was due to receive about $3 billion in stimulus spending.”This is an area where we have great expertise, and obviously we want to be helpful to the state in ensuring Colorado gets its fair share of stimulus money,” he said.