Pricey junkets on the cutting block

DENVER — Executives and staff of the quasigovernmental entity that provides workers’ compensation insurance won’t be able to go on junkets under a bill that won a voice vote in the Colorado House on Thursday.

The measure, HB1211, is aimed at Pinnacol Assurance, the state-chartered insurer of last resort for workers’ compensation.

Pinnacol executives were caught by a Denver television station last year spending thousands of company dollars on a posh golf outing in Pebble Beach, Calif.

House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, said it turned out that trip wasn’t the first for Pinnacol executives and not likely to be the last.

“I think we were all sort of in shock by some of the expenses we saw Pinnacol spend,” Pace said. “Most of us believed that Pinnacol was, after the criticism, was going to change their ways.”

Pinnacol executives immediately defended the trip, saying such excursions are common practice.

Since then, they have said going on it was a bad idea.

Earlier this month, the Pinnacol board of directors voted to strip its chief executive officer, Ken Ross, of a $163,000 annual bonus as punishment for how he reacted to the television station when it confronted him about the junket.

Two board members who also were on the California trip voted against stripping Ross of his bonus.

The measure is designed to prevent similar trips from occurring in the future.

“The sad reality for us is this is a necessary bill,” said Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.

“It’s something we didn’t want to have to do, but because of the way Pinnacol Assurance has been running its operation, it’s required us to step in and provide some oversight,” Waller said.



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