DENVER -- The Colorado House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to move forward with legislation that would ban members of the state’s sex offender management board from profiting from the treatment requirements they set.
The sex offender management board, also known as the SOMB, sets the standards and procedures for supervision and treatment of convicted sex offenders in the state.
Last year, Contact7 Investigates explored allegations of a conflict of interest within the board when it comes to polygraph testing mandated for offenders.
Public records show the polygraph company owned by board member Jeff Jenks consistently receives the largest share of public money spent on the testing. Jenks denies having a conflict of interest, saying his seat on the SOMB actually costs him business because of the time the volunteer position demands.
House Bill 18-1427would prevent members of the board from entering into contracts with the state for sex offender management and treatment. Jenks’ company, Amich and Jenks, is one of two private polygraph companies which currently hold contracts with the Colorado Department of Corrections.
The sex offender management board is designed by statute to be made up of stakeholders who are involved in sex offender treatment, prosecution, defense, and supervision, as well as victim advocates.
Opponents of the bill testified they believe if it passes it could make it difficult for the board to find qualified experts to serve in those seats. They also speculated the legislation is targeted specifically at the polygraph examiner seat on the board.
“The conversation around financial gain does seem to be focused around the polygraph examiner position and I fear this is an attempt to remove the polygraph stakeholder from the SOMB,” testified Allison Boyd, who serves as a victim’s representative on the SOMB. “I will tell you that offender accountability is so important for victims, for them to feel like this isn’t going to happen to someone else… that’s what we really gain from the polygraph.”
Reached for comment after the hearing, Jenks said his company did business with the state long before he sat on the board and it has not increased his business.
"It’s unfortunate the therapists on the board as well myself and and anyone else who might be affected by this bill are not going to be part of the sex offender management board to lend our knowledge on matters of dealing with what can be a very high risk population of offenders. None of us on this board are there to obtain contracts or business," Jenks said. "We have recently voted on new standards that has cut the number required polygraphs and have increased the length of time between polygraphs for many of these individuals. A bill likes this screams that we are somehow unethical by being on the board and we are not."
Judiciary committee members said they have asked the board numerous times over the years to address the conflict of interest questions without seeing any changes.
“As this bill moved forward we found that there are multiple providers who receive various contracts from the state in the millions of dollars and they have a direct financial conflict of interest in keeping the standards the same,” bill sponsor Rep. Leslie Herod said. “That’s a problem, members.”
The committee voted 11-0 to move the legislation forward to the House floor.