Culture Of Corruption: Brandon Shaffer

Like I asked at the recent City Council meeting: Are there secret meetings held to discuss holding secret meetings, or does it just come natural for certain types of people? I was eluding to State Senator Brandon Shaffer (Democrat-Longmont) and getting caught inviting only his own party buddies to a retreat, and Longmont City Councilmember Karen Benker and the 1996 Rocky Mountain News editorial about her secret RTD meetings (more on that in another piece), and of course the Open Records debacle relating to city emails.

But first, Brandon Shaffer. I’ve called this guy a party hack for quite some time now, and the proof is in this current pudding. I know, a lot of you bought the bait and switch of him standing in front of a flag and pictures of him in uniform – but all doubt should be erased as to how this guy ticks. This from the Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels: (emphasis and comments added)

Colorado senate president: Exclusive Dem retreat a “mistake”
The $4,300 event should have included the GOP, Shaffer says.

State Senate President Brandon Shaffer said he erred when he excluded Republicans from a two-day, taxpayer-paid retreat on conflict resolution and team building. The event last week cost more than $4,300.

“In retrospect, I made a mistake,” said Shaffer, D-Longmont. “I should have invited Republicans as well.” -remember that comment for later

Senate Republicans said because they were excluded, the event should have been paid for out of private Democratic caucus funds, not taxpayer money.

Shaffer said he hired a facilitator in part because of criticism this year about committee chairs who were thought to be disrespectful to the public or to fellow lawmakers. Because Democrats are in the majority, they are in charge of the committees. -and are thought to be disrespectful, just thought that was worth repeating.

“I thought it was a good idea to do some training around culture and leadership and the way we interact with each other down here,” Shaffer said. “I think a minimal investment in professional development is justified.”

But Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, was critical. “If I’ve said it once I’ve said it 1,000 times: The Democrats in Colorado’s statehouse are acting an awful lot like the Republicans in Congress right before they lost everything,” Penry said. “Unemployment is the highest in nearly a generation, state workers are being furloughed, and we’re writing checks for team-building seminars? Wow.” -stunning, and obvious

The Senate paid $4,200 for the workshop led by facilitator Paul Bernabei of Top 20 Training, which bills itself as an organization that empowers people to “make a positive difference in the quality of their lives, relationships and experiences.” The Senate also paid for his $179.20 plane ticket.

The Senate secretary, Karen Goldman, said she raised the issue about including the minority staff. -get that? The issue was raised.

“When I was asked about the Senate paying for it, I said we could do that but I would feel more comfortable if all staff were invited,” she said.Shaffer said it was his decision to keep Republicans out. -partisan hack only represents some of you, not all.

“I thought it would be beneficial if we were in an environment where we were going to air dirty laundry to keep that in-house,” he said. -like what dirty laundry? Illegal activities?

Bernabei met at the Capitol with Goldman and her staff and Senate Democratic caucus staffers Wednesday and with Senate Democratic lawmakers Thursday. Shaffer said the workshop was so effective and so constructive, “I wish the Republicans had been there, frankly.”
That last statement by Mr. Shaffer takes the cake for stupidity. He’s in charge, he makes the call, if he wished the Republicans had been there, he could have made it happen. He intentionally locked them out of this.

But there’s more: From the Associated Press: (emphasis and comments added)

Shaffer defends staffer’s bonus
Predecessor also rewarded workers
By Steven K. Paulson / The Associated Press

DENVER — Former Colorado state Senate President Peter Groff paid his staff $30,000 in bonuses before he left office, according to records obtained by The Associated Press, despite a statewide hiring freeze and a budget crisis that could mean furloughs for thousands of other workers. -nice

His successor as Senate president, Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said he awarded a $5,000 bonus to one of his staffers. Both defended the bonuses, saying their staffers were paid low wages and worked long hours. Records obtained by the AP on Monday through the state open-records law show Groff gave eight employees bonuses ranging from $5,500 to his chief of staff, who made $81,900 a year, to $1,500 to a secretary who was paid $54,248 a year.

“I thought the staff deserved it,” Groff said from his new post in Washington, where he is director of faith-based community initiatives for the Education Department. “They did a great job getting us through a tough, difficult session.” -too bad if the rest of the public isn’t doing so hot.
Groff was named director to the new position in May.

Shaffer said he paid a bonus to his assistant, who he said made only $8,000 over the past six months and got no state benefits. -says something about his employer (Shaffer), probably has him cut his grass and watch his kids, too.

Shaffer acknowledged it’s a “sensitive subject” but said he authorized the bonus because the assistant did a good job. -sensitive? But you had no problem doing it though.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, paid no bonuses this year and returned $10,000 from his office budget to the state Treasury. “There are a lot of great workers who are not getting bonuses this year,” Penry said. “These aren’t huge sums of money, but symbolism matters. Government should be sacrificing like everyone else.” House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, said he didn’t pay bonuses this year. He says the bonuses that were paid send the wrong message to state workers who face furloughs or losing their jobs. “They just don’t get it. It’s amazing. They’re so insulated by government, it’s incredible,” said May.

House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, also did not award any bonuses this year, according to House financial records. -refreshing surprise

Julie Postlethwait, spokeswoman for the state Department of Personnel and Administration, said Gov. Bill Ritter left the decision on whether to award bonuses to individual department heads this year. She said her office won’t know if any were awarded until the end of July after the bonuses have been paid. State workers could be furloughed for at least four days in the upcoming months to help balance the state budget. -but Shaffer’s paying bonuses

Lawmakers have told state agencies to cut costs by an additional $16 million by cutting salaries or furloughing workers. They left it up to Ritter and his department heads to work out the details. -but Shaffer’s paying bonuses

Ritter’s chief of staff, Jim Carpenter, said Ritter is trying to discourage executive directors from giving bonuses this year, but he can’t guarantee they haven’t been handed.
-but Shaffer’s paying bonuses!

State records show that in the 2007-08 fiscal year, which ended last June, Senate Republicans gave out $37,000 in bonuses and Democrats $26,250. Totals for the current fiscal year won’t be available until sometime after June 30. Carpenter also sent an e-mail to thousands of state workers describing the plan so far. He said four days of furloughs are possible in the budget year that begins July 1.
-but Shaffer’s paying bonuses!

However, he said more could be ordered to help balance the existing budget or in case more budget cuts are
needed because of a further drop in tax revenue.
And to wrap it all up with a bow on it, once caught, Brandon Shaffer said he’d pay back the money for the retreat. Once again, Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels:
(emphasis and comments added, edited out repeats from earlier story)

Colorado Senate to repay funds
Workshop that excluded Republicans won’t go on the taxpayers’ tab

Following a rash of criticism, state Senate President Brandon Shaffer has decided to use private Democratic funds rather than ask taxpayers to foot the bill for a $4,200 workshop from which Republicans were excluded.

“The perception was that it was an unwise use of funds,” John Cevette, Senate chief of staff, said Wednesday. -ya think?

Republicans were peeved at the use of taxpayer money because they weren’t invited, and even left-leaning blogs were critical. Shaffer said he erred in excluding them, and that the cost will be paid for out of “personal donations.” -attention, did you see that?

“I think that was a smart move on their part,” said Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction.

Cevette said the Minnesota-based facilitator did an excellent job, and staffers and lawmakers learned a lot, but it was overshadowed by two back-to-back controversies. The brouhaha over the workshop came at the same time it was disclosed that former Senate President Peter Groff paid nearly $30,000 in bonuses to Senate staffers despite a budget crisis and furloughs for state workers. Senate Republicans gave no bonuses this year, although last year, they gave $37,000 in bonuses while Democrats gave $26,250. The House Democrats and Republicans haven’t given bonuses for several years.
Doesn’t this sound familiar? It should if you read this site or pay attention to local Longmont Democratic state representatives. Back in April, John “Jack” Pommer (Democrat
Boulder/Longmont) got caught not paying deliquent fines (all the details are here). Like Mr. Shaffer, he didn’t do a thing until he was caught, probably never had any plans to pay those fines. Unless the Denver Post put the heat on Mr. Shaffer, I have no doubt he had no plans on paying back this retreat fee.

But here’s the other similarity: Those deliquent fines Mr. Pommer paid, like Mr. Shaffer he used “personal donations“. That’s right, you people foolish enough to contribute to either of these candidates just helped pay for late filing fines and this retreat junket! Odds are if you bought their line, you’ll continue to and deserve to lose your hard earned money. But maybe, maybe, you’ll learn something and remember about our two local ethically challenged representatives before voting for them for anything ever again, but I’m not counting on it.

About Chris Rodriguez

Chris is the editor/publisher of LightningRod Blog - as well as founder/editor of Wrongmont, Longmont Advocate, Vote!Longmont, Longmont Politics, the LightningRod Radio Network, as well as being the original Longmont Examiner. Chris is a writer and talker - whether it be blogs, podcasts, music, or public speaking. When he's not heard on Air Traffic radio, he can be heard on his podcasts or seen in the local paper causing trouble.
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