Editor’s Note: The letters sent to lawyers by Colorado’s Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel are published below.
By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Once embattled Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis will not face attorney disciplinary measures after the Attorney Regulation Counsel did not find clear evidence of wrongdoing following a charge of plagiarism.
McInnis last year was accused of plagiarizing an issue paper he compiled in 2005 for which he was paid $300,000 to write and speak about. The Hasan Family Foundation had asked McInnis to write the paper on water issues facing the West.
Following reports of plagiarism, McInnis’ campaign took a tumble, losing the Republican primary to underdog Dan Maes, who only garnered just over 10 percent of the vote in the general election, costing the election for the Republican Party in Colorado, and handing victory to then-Mayor John Hickenlooper.
But the Attorney Regulation Counsel of the Colorado Supreme Court said on Friday that there is “not clear and convincing evidence of a violation of the disciplinary rules” stemming from the incident.
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.
While the Hasan Foundation had originally stated in a news release that McInnis had never disclosed to them the use of Fischer as a research assistant, the investigation found that in fact McInnis had disclosed that information to the foundation.
“For all these reasons, there is no clear and convincing evidence Mr. McInnis knowingly engaged in dishonest conduct by either: (1) plagiarizing Justice Hobbs’ work, or (2) reporting to the Foundation that the articles were his original work,” states the report.
The story was first reported and broken by the Denver Post, which then led a large editorial campaign against McInnis, calling for the former Congressman to back out of the primary given the allegations.
But Regulation Counsel John S. Gleason says the Denver Post reported erroneous facts.
“While both Mr. Fischer and [Hasan Family Foundation Chairwoman Seeme] Hasan provided contradictory accounts to the press at the time this issue was raised by the Denver Post, 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,” states Gleason.
McInnis supporters are now calling for an ethics examination into the reporting of the Denver Post.
Jennifer Raiffie, who served as Tom Tancredo’s communications director when he entered last year’s gubernatorial race as a third-party conservative candidate, reminded the public that government watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch called for the investigation by the Attorney Regulation Counsel.
Tancredo entered the race only because he felt conservatives had lost a viable candidate after McInnis’ snafu.
Raiffie believes McInnis has now been publicly exonerated.
“I’m happy for Scott and his family that his name can now be cleared,” Raiffie said. “The Denver Post did a job on him with this story during the campaign. Their unfair and incomplete/biased reporting cost him personally and professionally. The Denver Post did a disservice to us all in Colorado and should be investigated by Ethics Watch … like that will ever happen.