Denver District Attorney Beth McCann on Monday cancelled a tour of the Denver Police Crime Lab scheduled later this week for members of a fundraising group tied to the Denver Democratic Party after a conservative organization raised a fuss.
Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado, sounded the alarm in a release Monday over an event publicized by the Denver Democrats’ Century Club — a group of donors to the county party who contribute specified amounts — billed as a “Members Only Event!!!” and a chance for supporters to “Get Your Inner CSI On!!!”
An invitation to the event, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, said members would be able to tour the Denver Police Crime Lab, then gather for light refreshments in the facility’s lunchroom and later be treated to an update from McCann on her endeavors since assuming office in January.
“It is, at best, extremely distasteful for DA McCann and the Democrat Party to be utilizing city of Denver resources for political gain,” Maher wrote. “Mayor Hancock should shut this down immediately.” She went on to say that while the legality of using “city resources for partisan political fundraising” was open to question, “the appearance is slimy at best.” Maher added that “the left” would go to town if a Republican district attorney tried to do something similar.
Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, agreed with Maher that the partisan fundraising group shouldn’t be using city facilities for its event.
“Regardless of the legality, this event would use public resources to support a political party and should be cancelled,” Toro told The Colorado Statesman in response to an inquiry about the matter.
Asked to comment, a spokesman for McCann told The Statesman that the prosecutor was canceling the tour because of Maher’s complaint.
“The Crime Lab provides tours on Thursday afternoons and Fridays depending upon staff availability — it is a public building,” said Ken Lane, communications director for the Denver district attorney’s office. “Beth was just helping in the request for a tour. But since some feel this might be inappropriate, she’ll cancel the tour and suggest the group arrange a tour directly with the Crime Lab at another time if it still wants to have a tour.”
Denver Democratic Party Chairman Mike Cerbo said Maher’s grumbling was a bit of a stretch.
“It’s not that we’re charging people to take this tour,” Cerbo said. “The Century Club does events around the city. This is the first I’ve ever heard of this being an issue. It’s a tour of our public crime lab. It’s an interesting topic for folks to be looking at and discussing.”
He added that he was pretty sure that if a Republican group wanted to take the tour and hear from the district attorney, McCann would be more than happy to set one up and talk to them, too.
Told that McCann had pulled the plug on the tour Monday afternoon, Maher applauded the Democrat’s decision.
“Canceling this event is the only appropriate action in this case,” she told The Statesman. “We are glad to have helped DA McCann evolve to a position where she could see the unseemly appearance of using city resources for partisan gain.”
A spokeswoman for Hancock declined to comment on Maher’s complaint after McCann cancel.
The Denver Police Department has posted a video tour of the crime lab, which opened in 2012.
According to the Denver Democratic Party’s website, membership in the county party’s Century Club is open to supporters who donate $100 annually or $10 a month. The club also has more rarified levels — the Victory Club costs a $500 annual donation, and membership in the Millennium Club can be had for $1,000 annual donation. The site touts exclusive events for members and lists as examples past events, including private tours of Union Station, the hotel at Denver International Airport and the state Capitol. Members were also able to take a trip on one of RTD’s Light Rail lines before the line opened to the public, the site says.