Natalie Meyer is smiling
By Jerry Kopel
August 9, 2007
What goes around, comes around.
Somewhere in Colorado, Natalie Meyer is smiling. The former secretary of
state who subsequently served nearly seven years as one of the five
member casino Limited Gaming Control Commission until she was fired by
then-Gov. Bill Owens, has every right to smile.
From late in 2005 through January of 2006, Meyer battled to preserve the
constitutional authority of the Gaming Commission to appropriate funds
for the commission budget, which is set UNDER LAW by the commission and
not by the legislature's joint budget committee or by the Dept. of
The commission was placed in the Dept. of Revenue by statute for two
reasons: (1) the lottery law was there and (2) Revenue would collect the
casino taxes on behalf of the commission.
Meyer fought for personnel needed (regulators and investigators) against
Revenue Dept. Director Michael Cooke who opposed hiring the additional
five employees which Meyer said were needed to provide the necessary
Meyer told Denver Post columnist Fred Brown that Cooke was "high-handed,
vindictive", that she "eviscerated the commission, making major
personnel moves without telling commissioners, denying them direct
communication with key staff."
Investigations were being carried out, and fines were being levied
against eleven casinos in the summer and fall of 2006. But in a Denver
Post story on defective slot machines, the reporter wrote:
"A recent review by the Post found that Colorado had the FEWEST
(emphasis added) officials assigned to oversee slot machines per device
among states that have commercial casinos."
That review was reaffirmed, said Meyer, by a researcher who compared the
normal number of casino investigators in other states and the few in
Colorado. He claimed that for every slot machine one investigator tested
in other states, the Colorado workload would be 16 slot machines. And of
course that didn't happen.
The Gaming Commission began operation in 1991-92 with 72 full-time staff
members and one half-time employee. In 2006, the commission had 72
full-time employees. The number had fluctuated as low as 66 employees,
but never more than 72.
Fifteen years with the same staff size? While casino revenues have
jumped tremendously! No wonder Commission Chairman Meyer and
vice-chairman Robert Millman were outraged at Cooke.
In a Denver Post article Feb. 17, 2006, Meyer and Millman
"alleged...Cooke overstepped her boundaries by meddling with the gaming
That was followed, said Meyer, by Cooke taking control of five Gaming
Commission employees, mostly auditors, to report to a Revenue chief for
duty even through the five were still being paid out of the Gaming
Commission budget and were housed there.
According to Meyer, the largest casinos were totally in support of
having sufficient oversight, recognizing that inducing customers to come
in depended on the credibility of their operations.
That concern was supported by a Denver Post quote from Lois Rice,
spokesman for the Colorado Gaming Association. "...when it does appear
that the regulation is slacking off, that's troublesome for us."
Meyer and Millman took their concerns to Owens. Refusing to be quiet on
the controversy, both Meyer and Millman were terminated in January under
CRS 12-47.1-301 (1) (d) "Any member of the commission may be removed by
the governor at any time." A third commissioner, Barbara Jenkins,
resigned in protest
Owens, according to his press secretary, called Meyer "disruptive" and
that "he (Owens) had lost confidence in her leadership". However, in a
letter to Mrs. Meyer, Owens made no such comment. It was a "letter of
praise" and included a certificate of termination, which, she told me,
she had no plans to frame and place on a wall
Cooke, the former Dept. of Revenue director and close associate of Owens
is now gone, replaced by Gov. Bill Ritter's appointee Roxy Huber, a lady
whose actions indicate she understands the English language in Article
18, Section 9, subsection (5):
"From the money in the limited gaming fund
(the taxes paid by the casinos) the state treasurer is hereby
authorized to pay all ongoing expenses of the commission and of any
other state agency, related to administration of this section 9.
"Such payment shall be made upon proper presentation of a voucher
prepared by the COMMISSION (emphasis added) in accordance with
statutes governing payments of liability incurred on behalf of the
state. Such payment shall not be conditioned on any appropriation by
the general assembly."
The language was repeated in statutory form in
CRS 12-47.1-701 (1) (a) and (b) .
Now, 18 months after the firing, the Gaming Commission has hired an
additional four full-time employees (four of the five sought by Meyer).
They are two compliance investigators on slot machines and two