Following the money trail – Campaign contributions to Commissioner Alice Nichol raise more questions
Does money buy influence in politics? That is a rhetorical question of course as money talks with many elected officials and it always has. A look at state campaign finance documents submitted by Adams County Commissioner Alice Nichol reveals she has accepted contributions from many of the same people tied to questionable dealings in the county.
Nichol’s last election was in 2008 when she ran for and won the Board of Commissioners seat for District 2. Prior to that she held office as a state representative and state senator.
In the months leading up to her most recent run, Nichol accepted sizeable campaign contributions from those involved in the Quality Paving scandal. As a county commissioner, Nichol was one of three to have the final say in awarding no-bid contracts to the company. We now know, Quality conspired with Adams County employees to defraud taxpayers out of $1.8 million worth of roadwork.
Jerry Rhea, the former principal at Quality Paving who is now charged with 23 felony counts, contributed heavily to Nichol’s 2008 commissioner run. Another figure in the scandal, the former head of Adams County’s Public Works Department, Lee Asay, also contributed to the Nichol campaign. Asay is close friends with Rhea and was responsible for recommending the awarding of the bogus contracts to Quality.
Another notable contributor includes attorney Manuel (Manny) Solano, husband of House District 31 Representative Judy Solano. While his campaign contribution was small, Manny Solano is representing Quality employee Heath Russo who is facing 33 felony counts for his part in the affair.
In Sunday’s Denver Post story that broke this story wide open, we also learned the name of Robert Fleming. Fleming is a planning consultant who brings a great deal of business before Adams County boards, including the Board of Adjustment that Ron Nichol, Alice’s husband, sits on. Mr. Fleming contributed heavily to Alice Nichol’s last campaign as well.
Lastly, Larry Valente, contributed as well to Nichol’s campaign. Valente is the son of former commissioner Elaine T. Valente (a cousin of Nichol’s) and currently sits on the Board of Adjustment.
Are any of these contributions a ‘smoking gun?’ Absolutely not.
However, putting these together with all of the other recent revelations highlights what is at best the appearance of impropriety and almost certainly represents a conflict of interest.
Yesterday when Commissioner Erik Hansen presented a five-point plan to help clean up Adams County, Nichol had absolutely no comment. She however needs to address these questions head on as an explanation is the least of what is owed Adams County taxpayers.
- Adams County Commissioner Erik Hansen proposes reforms
- Adams County DA to probe Quality Paving’s work at county commissioner’s home
- Adams County politicos besieged with controversy; Greed and corruption highlight county problems
- The troubles we have seen – Scandals and mismanagement mark Adams County’s recent past