A Colorado gun rights lobbyist who’s facing an ethics investigation for allegedly threatening a Republican lawmaker with negative mailers in her district has now denounced the committee looking into the charge as an “unconstitutional tribunal” and is refusing to participate in the process.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners lobbyist Joe Neville read a statement at the ethics hearing Wednesday, then walked out of the room in protest.
“I’ve decided not to be the model penitent for your unconstitutional tribunal,” Neville said. “In fact, I reject this entire process. So, with all due respect, I decline to participate further.”
The ethics complaint stems from a run-in he had in February with Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou on the day the state House was to vote on four controversial gun control bills.
Some members of the GOP asked Gerou about rumors that she was going to vote in favor of the bills. She denied them — and in fact voted against the bills — but was upset that someone was spreading misinformation about her.
When she tracked the rumor to Neville, she admits telling him to “fuck off.”
Neville also says Gerou poked him in the chest, which she denies.
In response to the confrontation, Neville told Gerou that she “earned [herself] another round of mailers” in her district, referring to critical mailings from RMGO, which saw Gerou as soft on gun rights.
Neville was escorted from the capitol that day and Gerou filed an ethics complaint against him, alleging that his mention of sending mailers to her constituents violated an ethics rule — Rule 36 — against attempting to intimidate or influence legislators.
In his statement Wednesday, Neville said the rule was a danger to free speech meant to “dictate and supervise the way people petition their government.”
“I strongly believe that Rule 36 is unconstitutional as drafted,” he said. “People with strong beliefs will support or oppose politicians based on whether or not they share and vote with the same beliefs. … A rule that tries to declare it unethical to say out loud what is obvious — what everybody knows — is offensive. And, frankly, it is silly.”
He also reiterated the Gerou initiated the confrontation.
“Representative Gerou summoned me,” he said. “I had no agenda to talk to her. When I responded to her call, she confronted me. She berated me. She cursed me. She initiated physical contact with me.”
His statement about the mailers, he said, was a reaction to Gerou’s provocation spoken in the heat of the moment. He said he finds it hard to take the allegation of a threat seriously considering that the vote was to be taken that day and it would take weeks to organize a mailing to her district.
“Do you think I actually had a calculated motive to influence her vote with mailings that couldn’t reach her constituents until long after the final votes were cast and counted?” Neville asked.
The next hearing of the ethics committee — which includes two Democrats and a Republican — is next week. According to the Denver Post, committee members hope Neville will return to answer further questions.
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