Colorado State Fair champion Sen. Abel Tapia has spent eight years in the Capitol corralling money for the fiscally faltering enterprise while his engineering firm received nearly half a million dollars in fair contracts, records show.
As the Pueblo Democrat rose to power atop an influential budgeting committee, so too rose the fortunes of his district’s fair and the price tags on the contracts he received.
Nothing known to be illegal happened in this case, and I’m not writing this to throw stones at Sen. Tapia. Rather than rehashing the details here, you can peruse the Post article. It just points to a problematic loophole in Colorado government ethics that needs to be resolved – because as the article points out:
None of the fair’s engineering contracts are awarded through competitive bids.
Instead, facility managers either select an engineer from a state-managed pool for smaller projects or choose a contractor through interviews and rankings. The process follows state procurement rules.
In the Pueblo region, there are more than two dozen firms similar to Tapia’s from which fair and other state agency officials can choose. The companies sign up through the state to handle contracts worth $50,000 or less.
Tapia’s firm received eight contracts or amendments to contracts from the State Fair in an eight-year stretch. They totaled $481,483. [emphasis added]
A story like this one makes the case for proposed ballot initiative # 59, titled “Restrictions on Campaign Contributions from Government Sole-Source Contractors”, for which signatures are being collected to appear on the statewide Colorado ballot in November.