Gun lobbyist's actions eyed in ethics probe

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A gun lobbyist is at the center of an ethics probe into whether he threatened an Evergreen lawmaker with political reprisal over her votes on recent gun bills.

Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou filed an ethics complaint against Rocky Mountain Gun Owners political director Joe Neville, after the two shared a sharp exchange in the House lobby in February.

Gerou hurled an expletive toward Neville during the incident, before he was escorted out of the Capitol. The interaction came on a day when emotions ran high inside the building, where lawmakers were taking up votes on controversial pieces of gun-control legislation.

Both Gerou and Neville testified about the incident before an ethics committee on March 27. The testimony is part of a process that ultimately will determine whether Neville violated a legislative rule that prohibits lobbyists from using political threats or deceit to influence lawmakers.

Gerou testified that on Feb. 15, she received several emails from constituents who had heard she was going to vote for the Democratic-sponsored gun-control bills that were being debated that day — even though Gerou said she had no intention of doing so. Gerou voted no on those bills.

Gerou found out later that day that Rocky Mountain Gun Owners was behind the misinformation. The group had been sending out mailings to voters in Gerou's district, which Neville has said was an effort meant to encourage voters to call Gerou and ask where she stood on the bills.

“I have to tell you I was very angry,” Gerou testified. “I feel a personal responsibility to my constituents and I felt that not only that they were being told a lie, they were without reason feeling scared.”

Gerou testified that she used an epithet when she and Neville spoke in the House lobby.

“He stared at me briefly and he said: `You just earned yourself another round of mailers against you in your district, for a primary,” Gerou testified.

Neville admitted saying something to that effect, but he told the committee that his reaction was made out of anger, and that the comment was not meant to influence her votes.

When committee member Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, asked Neville,“Why didn't you just walk away?” the lobbyist replied, “Easier said than done, I guess.”

“My job is to stand my ground, too,” Neville said. “I don't apologize for standing up for the Second Amendment. That's what I'm paid to do.”

Neville further stated that he does not believe his actions rise to the level of an ethics probe.

Testimony was scheduled to continue this week. The committee will forward the information to an executive committee, which can take any number of actions against Neville, ranging from doing nothing at all, to suspending his lobbying privileges.