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The Colorado Supreme Court and Colorado Court of Appeals. (Jeremy Martinez, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Outside investigators will examine allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination within the state’s judicial branch, the Colorado Supreme Court announced Tuesday.

Representatives from Gov. Jared Polis’ office, the Colorado Attorney General’s office and the state legislature will form a panel by the end of the week to select the independent investigators. The investigators will look into claims that former Chief of Staff Mindy Masias was improperly awarded a contract through her firm, The Leadership Practice, to prevent her from filing a lawsuit revealing sexual harassment and discrimination inside the judicial branch.

A memo recently released to The Denver Post lays out nearly two dozen instances of alleged misconduct and sexism, including remarks by former Chief Justice Nancy Rice that were collected from a tape recording Masias made after she was passed over for a promotion. 

Masias accepted a $2.7 million leadership training contract six days after she resigned in March 2019. Controversy around the sole-source contract emerged, and Christopher Ryan, a former state court administrator, terminated the deal six weeks later.

At the time the memo was written, Masias was the only female director out of seven at the judicial branch and women accounted for 73% of employees fired from the department, The Gazette reported.

“We’re disappointed and absolutely heartbroken by this situation, and nobody wants these investigations to go forward more than I do,” Chief Justice Brian Boatright said in a written statement Tuesday.

The Colorado Supreme Court says Boatright has directed that he be notified and receive weekly updates on all future misconduct complaints across the judicial branch to ensure each incident is fully investigated and acted on as appropriate without delay.

The independent investigators’ findings and recommendations will be publicly released, the Judicial Branch said in a news release. The announcement comes two days before the biennial State of the Judiciary speech, where Boatright, who became chief justice on Jan. 1, will share more details on the investigation.

“As chief justice, I am personally committed to restoring this public trust,” Boatright said in his written statement.

Colorado Auditor Dianne Ray has been tasked with a separate investigation into the allegations described in the memo, the results of which may never become public.

An audit released in December found the State Court Administrator’s Office lacked a “culture of accountability,” citing single-source contracts, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth in buyouts and paid leave, and few records to document approvals. The administrator’s office agreed to all of the audit’s recommendations.

Lucy Haggard was a TRENDS Reporting Fellow from August 2020 to May 2021 with The Colorado Sun.

Email: Twitter: @lucy_haggard