The Colorado State Capitol building’s gold dome gleams in the sun on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)

Chris Ryan, the former state court administrator for the Colorado Judicial Department who alleged that a tell-all sex discrimination lawsuit by a former employee was silenced by a multi-million-dollar contract – an assertion since refuted by investigators hired by the department – is expected to testify before a legislative committee exploring changes to how judges are disciplined, The Denver Gazette has learned.

In his first public comments since going public in February 2021 with claims about an alleged quid pro quo contract – allegations that rocked the state judiciary and created a crisis over how the department is scrutinized – Ryan is expected to appear before the Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline on Aug. 10, several people familiar with the committee's unpublished agenda confirmed.

Investigators with Investigative Law Group, which last month reported it found no evidence the department had covered up or ignored allegations of misconduct by judges going back years, are also scheduled to appear before the committee. The company was also hired by the Judicial Department to look into a litany of allegations contained in a two-page memo at the center of the alleged quid-pro-quo deal.

ILG found a workplace culture where employees “broadly feared” retaliation for filing misconduct complaints and had “insufficient avenues” to do make those complaints safely, according to a report it issued in July.

In what is likely to be a packed-room hearing, it's unclear whether Ryan will take aim at the findings and inconsistencies of an investigation by RCT Ltd., in which the company squarely called Ryan a liar and a key figure responsible for a multi-million-dollar contract awarded to former Chief of Staff Mindy Masias while she was being fired for financial irregularities.

Ryan has said the contract was the direct result of a lawsuit threat from Masias in which she would divulge misconduct by judges, most of them men, that was handled lightly or not at all and was in stark contrast to her being fired. Ryan said it was then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan “Ben” Coats who agreed to award Masias the contract.

But RCT said it determined it didn’t happen that way at all and that Ryan intentionally kept material information from Coats, who was not paying as close attention to running the judiciary as he should have. Instead, RCT said Ryan signed the contract with Masias, that the department’s human resources director, Eric Brown, was also complicit and that Ryan kept Coats mostly in the dark.

Brown and Masias have never spoken publicly about the contract or the several investigations that ensued. Neither they nor Ryan spoke to RCT investigators during its inquiry. RCT is headed by Robert Troyer, the former U.S. Attorney for Colorado and Nicholas Mitchell, Denver’s former independent monitor for its department of public safety.

Troyer and Mitchell appeared before the legislative committee on July 12 and stood firm with their findings that there was plenty of misconduct and mismanagement surrounding the contract – a five-year executive-training-for-judges deal that would pay Masias as much as $2.75 million – but no quid-pro-quo.

But the report has a number of inconsistencies that Ryan might take aim at with the committee, most notably how informed Coats and his legal counsel, Andrew Rottman, really were about the deal and whether it really was a contract for silence.

For instance, RCT said Ryan intentionally kept information about additional Masias misconduct from Coats in order to ensure the contract would not be derailed. Even though Masias was already being fired over fraud allegations, Coats had agreed to the contract only if Masias wasn’t involved in any other troubles and the award process was done “by the book.”

The report didn’t note that Ryan months earlier had already reported Masias’ misconduct to state auditors and had taken various disciplinary steps against her.

The report also doesn’t address specific allegations from an anonymous whistleblower letter sent to Coats on April 15, 2019 – months before Coats actually cancelled the contract – in which Masias and Brown are accused of double-dipping the department. State auditors later sent those allegations to Denver prosecutors for criminal investigation after their own inquiry confirmed them.

While the RCT report said Coats only first saw the whistleblower letter when the state auditor told him of it in April, the auditor didn’t actually see the letter for at least another month after that – but Coats had. Coats wrote then-Auditor Dianne-Ray on May 29, 2019, acknowledging her receipt of the whistleblower letter and noting that he and the attorney general had also received copies – the actual letter is addressed to the governor and chief judge – and that Coats said he “already had a chance to look into these allegations myself” before finally asking the auditor to pursue her own inquiry.

Ryan could question how RCT determined Coats was uninformed about additional allegations of Masias misconduct when the chief justice already knew of the whistleblower letter's charges about her.

Ryan could also challenge RCT’s conclusions that Ryan went to great lengths to withhold information about a surreptitious recording Masias had made of former Chief Justice Nancy Rice. The recording was made after Masias did not land the job as state court administrator and met with Rice to find out why. Rice is heard making a number of personal comments about Masias, her gender and how she presented herself.

Quotations from the recording were actually included on the second page of the Masias memo that Brown read to Coats during the meeting where the contract was discussed. Brown never got to that part of the document because Coats stopped him from reading midway through the first page, according to RCT’s report.

The Masias contract saga has stretched on for more than three years and has seen more than a half dozen investigations launched, as well as the legislative committee. The eight-member bipartisan interim committee was formed following legislation this year that independently funded the state’s commission on judicial discipline. Previously it was funded with attorney registration fees controlled by the Supreme Court.

Members of that commission had testified before legislators about difficulties the body had investigating allegations of misconduct surrounding the Masias contract. What ensued is an ongoing battle between a judiciary that says its cooperating fully with all inquiries and a discipline system that says that’s untrue.

Legislators are faced with deciding whether the state’s judicial discipline process needs an overhaul, part of which could require voters to pass a constitutional amendment if lawmakers deem it necessary.

David is an award-winning Senior Investigative Reporter at The Gazette and has worked in Colorado for more than two decades. He has been a journalist since 1982 and has also worked in New York, St. Louis, and Detroit.

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