Candidate admits to plagiarism
McInnis: Failure to cite source unacceptable but unintentional
GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis admitted Tuesday that articles he had written on water issues for a Pueblo foundation were plagiarized from a Colorado Supreme Court justice.
But the former U.S. congressman said it was not deliberate and apologized for the gaffe.
“Regrettably, it has now become clear that much of the research was in fact taken from other source material without proper attribution,” McInnis said in a statement. “While I do not believe that this was a deliberate act, it was a serious mistake. It’s unacceptable, it’s inexcusable, but it was also unintentional.”
At issue are “musings” McInnis wrote in 2005 and 2006 for the nonprofit Hasan Family Foundation on water issues, 23 articles for which he was paid $300,000. McInnis had left his congressional seat in 2004.
A Denver Post article published Monday that revealed the plagiarizing said sections of the articles were lifted from work written 20 years earlier by now Justice Gregory Hobbs, who was appointed to the high court in 1996.
Jon Sarche, spokesman for the Judicial Branch, said Hobbs compared excerpts of his work with McInnis’ and saw similarities.
“His reaction was that the articles looked similar to his writings, and he’d have expected some kind of attribution,” Sarche said. “But he also said he is not an expert on plagiarism and couldn’t go farther than noting the similarities.”
According to the Post article, whole sections of at least one of the articles appeared to be reprinted verbatim from Hobbs’ earlier work, while other sections were identical to Hobbs’ writing.
McInnis said he hired Rolly Fischer, a longtime former head of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, to do research for him, but he declined to say how much he paid Fischer. McInnis said it was Fischer who initially rewrote Hobbs’ work.
Still, during in a telephone interview Tuesday, McInnis said he made a mistake and apologized for accepting the research without question, adding he has reached out to Hobbs and the foundation in an effort to make amends.
“I made a mistake. I should have edited that,” he said. “(Fischer) thought it was in the public domain. Nonetheless, it’s my mistake. You wreck the car, you’ve got to fix it.”
Fischer retired in 1996 after The Daily Sentinel published a series of articles showing that the river district hired two companies operated by his wife, Tillie, without going to a competitive bid. Fischer was part owner of those businesses, which handled payroll accounts and general administrative functions.
In an interview with 9News in Denver earlier Tuesday, McInnis said the plagiarism was a “non-issue.” He told the television station that “voters don’t really care about this issue.”
By Tuesday afternoon, McInnis told The Daily Sentinel that giving at least some of the money back to the foundation “ought to be discussed because the product I gave to them was not the product ... that I represented I was giving to them.”
Seeme Hasan, chairwoman of the foundation board, said she was “shocked, angry and disappointed” by the news and would demand all money paid to McInnis be returned should the plagiarism prove to be true.
Hasan said the foundation was unaware McInnis was using a researcher to help him.
“The work that the foundation hired Mr. McInnis to do was to be done solely by Mr. McInnis, and not in concert with anyone else,” she said in a statement. “At no time was it brought to our attention that Mr. McInnis used information not cited or unethically used work that was not his own. All work was represented to be original and final.”
While McInnis said he hopes people will move on from this matter, that’s not likely to happen. Already some are calling for McInnis to withdraw from the race.
“Whether he plagiarized a Colorado Supreme Court justice intentionally, or paid someone to do so, it doesn’t matter,” said House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver. “He took sole credit for the work, and he is solely to blame. I am appalled at this cynical act of dishonesty.”
McInnis’ opponent in the Aug. 10 Republican primary, Dan Maes, told the Associated Press on Tuesday, “You can’t point fingers, you can’t blame others, you have to take responsibility for something you put your name on and take $300,000 for.”
Maes has had issues of his own recently.
On Monday an administration law judge signed off on a $17,500 fine that Maes and Grand Junction resident Christopher Klitzke agreed to over a complaint alleging the candidate violated numerous campaign-finance laws, including reimbursing himself more than $40,000 for mileage costs.
In a news release he issued Tuesday, Maes said he did not misuse any campaign money and the complaint was politically motivated.
Erik Groves, the Grand Junction attorney who filed the complaint on Klitzke’s behalf, said Maes shouldn’t be throwing stones.
“His claims that his reimbursements were legitimate will continue to be in doubt until he provides the mileage logs justifying the more than $40,000 he paid himself with campaign donors’ money,” Groves said.