Senate President Calls For Pinnacol Board Resignations

Top Senator Says Resignations Necessary After $318,000 Golf Trip

The state Senate President called for three Pinnacol Assurance board members who went on a $318,000 liquor-filled golf outing to step down, saying those board members can no longer provide proper oversight to the quasi-public worker's compensation provider.

"We need a shake up with the board," said Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Boulder, who presided over the Senate when it confirmed two of board members who went to Pebble Beach. "Those members who went on this trip need to do the right thing and step down."

Shaffer said Pinnacol Chief Executive Officer Ken Ross, who threatened 7News Reporter Tony Kovaleski at Pebble Beach when Kovaleski confronted board members about the trip, also needs to be replaced.

"I think the right thing here is for the business community needs to gather round Ken Ross and get him to gracefully step aside," Shaffer said. "If that doesn’t happen we will see what the next step may be."

It is unclear that elected officials can do anything to recall the board members after they are confirmed. Gov. Bill Ritter, who reappointed board President Gary Johnson and board member Ryan Hettich before the May 2010 trip, declined to comment on camera Friday.

Shaffer's comments come the day after CALL7 Investigators obtained records that show Pinnacol Assurance spent more than $318,000 on a five-day golf outing in Pebble Beach last year.

The receipts of the trip, obtained after a six-month court battle, show Pinnacol employees, relatives and independent agents spent more than $53,203 in golf and spa charges, $21,050 in liquor and $5,209 for photographers to document the event.

The records show that 27 rooms purchased by Pinnacol ranged from $725 to $1,400 a night and Pinnacol spent more than $82,000 for catering, restaurants, lounges and meetings. In contrast, the group only spent $779 at the business center.

The group also wasted thousands of dollars when employees or agents did not show up for the hotel or golf reservation. One receipt shows Don Collins, who heads Pinnacol’s marketing efforts, was charged $1,400 for one night suite when he showed up a day late for his reservation. Other bills show greens fees charged for people who never showed up.

There was an additional $8,091.56 for tours, including a wine tour documented in the CALL7 investigation, and dining outside the resort, records show.

One dinner on May 15, cost $19,120.84.

Pebble Beach Trip Was Focus Of Exclusive Call7 Investigation

The trip was the focus of a CALL7 undercover investigation in May that showed three Pinnacol board members -- who are appointed by the governor to oversee Pinnacol’s finances -- golfing, dining and drinking with the executives they were charged to oversee.

In May, three board members -- Johnson, ethics chairwoman Debra Lovejoy and Hettich -- attended the golf junket.

Ritter issued a statement Thursday, saying the trip showed poor judgment.

"The trip to California and its exorbitant price tag demonstrate extremely poor judgment on the part of Pinnacol’s leaders at a time when their customers -- small businesses and workers alike -- are suffering through the worst economy in generations," Ritter's statement said. "As a quasi-governmental agency with an obligation to respect and honor Colorado taxpayers, we deserve better. At the very least, we deserve more responsible leadership."

Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, who led a committee that investigated Pinnacol's business practices, called for the board members who went on the trip to resign and a new board to fire Ross.

"The members of the board who attended this trip need to resign," she said, adding that board members who received the benefits of the lavish trip cannot be independent. "New members need to be appointed with greater independence in those vacancies and that new board needs to terminate Ken Ross's contract and search for a new CEO."

Court Orders Pinnacol To Turn Over Receipts

After 7NEWS asked for receipts from the trip, Pinnacol went to court asking a judge to rule that those documents are not subject to open records.

The judge ruled against Pinnacol and the appeals court ordered Pinnacol to turn over the documents, which the company released Thursday.

Denver District Judge Morris B. Hoffman ruled the documents are covered by open records and he wrote the reason Pinnacol did not want to release the records was because they would be embarrassing.

“The only damage the release of these documents will cause is some fleeting, and arguably healthy, embarrassment,” Hoffman wrote.

In a statement, Pinnacol said the company released the records due to the court order, but said the company is continuing an appeal to determine whether releasing records will hurt their competitive advantage.

“The CORA request sought information not required of the private entities that Pinnacol competes with in the insurance marketplace,” the statement said.

Unlike private insurance companies, Pinnacol was started by the state and receives benefits like the state’s generous retirement benefits for employees and the ability to avoid taxes.

Thousands Spent On Luxury Items, Wasted Reservations

Those documents show Pinnacol spent thousands of dollars on luxury items like gifts of golf jackets, $500 for orchids on napkins for a dinner and spa treatments for Ross and his family.

Receipts also showed the group spent more than $21,000 on liquor over the five days, including $1,625 for 13 bottles of Silver Oak wine, $245 for seven glasses of 18-year-old scotch and $30 for a 100-year liquor.

See some sample receipts of the Pebble Beach trip.