Last summer Scott McInnis’s campaign imploded from the news that some of the work he had done for the Hasan Family Foundation was plagiarized. Journalist Jason Salzman (Bigmedia.org) stayed with his investigation into the candidate’s writings and the rest is Colorado political history. It’s too late for Mr. McInnis to challenge Governor Hickenlooper but he probably welcomes today’s news. Here’s a report from Sara Burnett writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
Regulation Counsel John Gleason said new evidence and follow-up interviews with witnesses revealed no “clear and convincing evidence” that McInnis, an attorney, violated disciplinary rules…
Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint with the ARDC, which investigates attorneys for violations of court rules and the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct…
[McInnis researcher Rollie Fischer] told the ARDC that he alone copied Hobbs’ work without crediting him, that he didn’t tell McInnis he had done so, and that he expected McInnis to publish the work as his own.
More coverage from John Tomasic writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:
“We’re satisfied that [the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel] did a very thorough investigation of the matter,” Colorado Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro told the Colorado Independent. “They took their time to look closely at the material and deposed two witnesses. We’re glad that they put a period on this story. The public gains in transparency for its having done the investigation.”
More coverage from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:
The attorney regulation counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court declined to pursue disciplinary action against McInnis, documents obtained by The Daily Sentinel said. Copies of the same documents also were posted on the http://www.scribd.com…
Letters signed by John S. Gleason, who heads the office of attorney regulation, said the incident that shattered McInnis’ attempt for the Republican nomination for governor, was the result of a series of forgotten conversations and emails among the principals, including officials of the Hasan Foundation, which demanded that McInnis repay $300,000 he had been paid for the articles…
While Fischer and the foundation provided contradictory accounts at the time the issue was raised, “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,” Gleason wrote.
More coverage from Gene Davis writing for Law Week Colorado. Here’s an excerpt:
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.
More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
McInnis blamed the plagiarism on Rolly Fischer, whom he had enlisted as an assistant for his water writings. Fischer claimed he believed Hobbs’ writings were in the public domain. A review of correspondence between McInnis and Fischer conducted by the Attorney Regulation Counsel found that in 2005 “McInnis had instructed Mr. Fischer not to plagiarize any work in the articles he drafted,” according to the counsel’s letter of findings. It also noted that: Fischer “alone chose large sections of text” from Hobbs’ writings and passed them along to McInnis for publication without attributing it to Hobbs. Fischer did not inform McInnis that he had imported Hobbs’ work for the articles. Fischer expected McInnis to treat the articles as his own without providing any credit to Fischer.
More coverage from Fox31.com (Eli Stokols):
On Monday, McInnis’s defenders viewed the findings as an exoneration and an opportunity to question the journalism of the Denver Post, which broke the story of how McInnis, in 2005, was paid $300,000 by the Hasan Foundation to write a series of articles on water, a job he pawned off on a researcher, Rollie Fischer, who plagiarized portions of the articles from 1983 essays by current Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs…
The Post’s publisher, Dean Singleton, defended the paper’s reporting in a radio interview Monday afternoon and even insinuated that the emails used to clear McInnis’s name might have been forged by McInnis himself. “He didn’t produce them [earlier] because they probably didn’t exist,” Singleton said in an interview on the Caplis and Silverman show.”
More coverage from Jason Salzman writing for Huffpost Denver. From the article:
It turns out that an attorney connected to the Colorado Supreme Court conducted an investigation, at the behest of Colorado Ethics Watch, on whether McInnis’ behavior meets the lawyerly snuff test. His investigation, indeed, cleans up McInnis a bit, but it doesn’t clear his name, unless you believe throwing people under buses is a good idea…
So Gleason clears McInnis of dishonest lawyerly conduct. But does it clear him of slimy, squeezy, mean politican conduct? Does it make his conduct look, ah, gubernatorial, if I can use that word there?[...]
If so, if McInnis thought this would Shyne up his image, McInnis still doesn’t get it. His mistake was throwing his research assistant under the bus. He could have survived the plagiarism, probably. But his handling of it sunk his campaign. He can’t clear his name of those mistakes. That was his problem then, and that’s what he’s going to have to live with.
More coverage from the Colorado Statesman (Ernest Luning). From the article:
In letters sent last week to McInnis’ attorneys and to Colorado Ethics Watch — the liberal watchdog group that filed a complaint over the matter last summer — regulation counsel John S. Gleason said his office’s investigation revealed that “there is no clear and convincing evidence Mr. McInnis knowingly engaged in dishonest conduct.”
The report arrived 10 months after revelations in a Denver Post story threw the state Republican Party into turmoil. In the months that followed, McInnis, a former six-term congressman, lost the Republican nomination for governor to a rookie politician named Dan Maes, but only after another former Republican congressman, Tom Tancredo, tried to force both from the race. When that failed, Tancredo bolted the party and ran under the banner of the previously obscure American Constitution Party, finishing in second place behind Democrat John Hickenlooper…
Gleason also concluded that, “based on our interview with Ms. Hasan and our review of the documents she provided to us, including contemporaneous emails between her and Mr. McInnis, it is also clear Mr. McInnis notified her of his retention of Mr. Fischer as a research assistant.” Not so fast, said the woman who heads the foundation that paid McInnis $300,000 to spread the word on water – and then got a full refund when the plagiarized passages came to light last year. Hasan disputed Gleason’s characterization of the documents she said the foundation provided to investigators. It’s true a previously undisclosed document came to light, said Seeme Hasan, the foundation’s president, in an interview with The Statesman this week. But it wasn’t an email and it didn’t describe Fischer as a “research assistant.”
What the foundation’s attorneys turned over to the OARC was a fax cover sheet that had been buried in boxes of foundation documents for years, she said. It accompanied an article McInnis submitted in June 2005 and included the handwritten note, “I feel very good about the articles and the goal of serving the public interest. On a regular basis I have been assisted by Rolly Fischer, and his confidence that we are reaching our goal is high as well.” Hasan said that was the only mention McInnis made of Fischer in any of their correspondence and hardly qualifies as the kind of disclosure the OARC claims it is. “As far as I’m concerned, it did not say research assistant, it did not say co-author, it did not say he would help me write, it just said assistant,” Hasan said. “That could mean the assistant who faxes his papers.”[...]
After learning of the OARC’s decision, Hasan said she was ready to lay the matter to rest, even though she disagreed with the counsel’s finding. “Our conclusion is unchanged, because we were told that this was all original, and then last summer he acknowledged himself it was not all original,” she said…
“He has paid the foundation back, what’s been done has been done,” Hasan said. “But in my mind, it doesn’t take away what happened. I’m not sitting in his mind — I don’t know what he was thinking — but I am confident that some of the articles he sent to me, he had never even read them, he had never even looked at them. If he had looked at them, he would have been appalled.”[...]
“We’re pleased that there was an investigation that brought out these facts on this issue of public concern,” said Ethics Watch director Luis Toro. “We think that they exercised their discretion and we’re not going to challenge it based on a full investigation.”
More Scott McInnis coverage here. More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.