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Colorado secretary of state target of probe over expenses

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Colorado's secretary of state is the target of a criminal investigation over allegations that he spent public money to attend two partisan political events in Florida in August, the Denver District Attorney's Office said on Monday.

Scott Gessler, a Republican, is under investigation for improperly billing taxpayers for travel to a Republican election law event in Sarasota, Florida, and then to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, even though he was not a delegate.

"After reviewing the complaint, the decision was made about a week ago that a formal investigation into the allegations was warranted," said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, a Democrat.

A spokesman for Gessler could not be immediately reached for comment.

Separately, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission, a state agency charged with investigating ethics complaints of public officials, said on Monday that it was also investigating Gessler, according to Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, a left-leaning citizen watchdog group.

Toro said his organization filed complaints with the commission and the prosecutor's office over roughly $1,400 spent for the Florida trips, and the commission informed him there was enough information to open an investigation.

Toro said his group found the discrepancies after reviewing Gessler's expense reports, which it obtained through freedom of information requests.

"We're pleased the commission will investigate this public corruption case," Toro told Reuters. "Public funds are not for personal or political use."

Kimbrough said there was no timetable on when the criminal probe would be completed.

(Editing by Mary Slosson and Cynthia Johnston)

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