House speaker hesitant to approve private testimony

Updated: March 23, 2004, 3:35 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- The independent commission investigating the University of Colorado's football program is unlikely to get subpoena power or take private testimony, according to a top lawmaker.

House Speaker Lola Spradley, R-Beulah, met at the Capitol last week with the co-chairs of the commission, former state lawmakers Joyce Lawrence and Peggy Lamm, to discuss the request for subpoena power.

Any legislation granting the commission subpoena power or an exemption from the Open Meetings law, which requires testimony in public, would require special "late-bill" status. As speaker, Spradley would have to approve that status; so far, she has not given that approval.

"I need to know a lot more specifics about what and who and how they would use it," she said. "And I'd need a better understanding of what their mission is as opposed to the special prosecutor."

That special prosecutor is Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, whom Gov. Bill Owens appointed to determine if there has been any criminal wrongdoing involving the CU football program.

The CU regents appointed the eight-member commission in response to allegations that the football program used sex and alcohol as recruitment tools.

The commission is also reviewing the university's policies on sexual misconduct and substance abuse and whether those policies are being enforced.

CU officials have been dealing with allegations made by women who contend that they were sexually assaulted either by CU football players or recruits since December 2001. No criminal charges were filed in any of those cases.

One of the women, a former CU athletics department employee, has indicated through her lawyer that she is willing to talk to the panel, but only on a confidential basis.

The panel voted earlier this month to seek subpoena power on a limited basis.

At its meeting last Tuesday, the commissioners voted 6-1 to seek an exemption from the Open Meetings law. The vote was a reversal of a decision at a previous meeting when the commission voted 4-3 not to seek an exemption.

Spradley said she has not received that request yet, but she would have the same questions as she did on the subpoena power issue.

"What if you do it (take private testimony) and you find out something that the special prosecutor ought to know?" Spradley asked.

"It's an important investigation and we want to make sure it's done right" Spradley said of the commission's work. "But the legislature has a right to know the specifics of what we're being asked to do."

The commission will meet again at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Broomfield City Hall.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press