The FBI has launched its own investigation into the circumstances surrounding a $2.5 million Colorado Judicial Department contract given to a former employee who threatened a tell-all sexual discrimination lawsuit, The Denver Post has learned.
Four people tied to the case confirmed to The Post that they have recently been questioned by an FBI agent and a federal prosecutor about the contract.
None of the four agreed to be publicly identified because of the sensitivity of the inquiry. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to Denver Post efforts to reach them, but those agencies typically do not confirm or deny ongoing investigations.
The FBI’s inquiry brings to six the number of investigations launched after The Post in February revealed that former judicial department chief of staff Mindy Masias was allegedly awarded a five-year training contract to keep her from filing the lawsuit, according to the department’s former chief administrator.
Masias was prepared to reveal indiscretions at the highest level of the state’s judicial system, including allegations that justices of the Colorado Supreme Court had ordered evidence destroyed and had paid harassment victims to protect judges’ reputations. Masias was being fired at the time because of financial improprieties.
Masias’ assertions were contained in a two-page memo authored by the department’s former human resources director. Chief Justice Brian Boatright made the memo public days after The Post disclosed its existence.
The four people interviewed by the FBI said the agency’s questions focused on how Masias obtained the contract for judicial training. The Post has reported that Masias went on family medical leave in October 2018 when told she was to be fired. Shortly afterward, then-human resources director Eric Brown told then-chief administrator Christopher Ryan about her intent to sue.
Brown authored the two-page memo that highlighted what Masias was willing to make public and read from it during a meeting with Ryan, then-Chief Justice Nathan “Ben” Coats and his counsel, Andrew Rottman.
Ryan said Coats refused to allow Brown to finish reading aloud, waved his arms, and asked what could be done to prevent the lawsuit and its revelations.
That’s when Brown and Ryan proposed the training contract. Brown had drafted a copy of a sole-source contract weeks earlier, but Ryan insisted it go through a public bidding process.
When no companies bid on the contract, it was awarded to The Leadership Practice, a company Masias had created.
The Post also reported that Brown and others allegedly masked the intended recipient of the contract so that financial officials in the department would not be alerted.
The other investigations include a fraud inquiry by the state auditor’s office, a pair of independent inquiries into the contract and the department’s culture toward women, and probes by the Attorney Regulation Counsel that disciplines lawyers and the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline.
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