Ethics board: Espinoza doesn’t need to recuse himself



  • Rafael Espinoza is a Denver City Councilman.
  • Espinoza doesn’t have to recuse himself on historic designation.
  • Espinoza filed the historic application, but had no financial stake.
Councilman Rafael Espinoza does not have to recuse himself on the historic designation vote on this Jefferson Park house.'

Councilman Rafael Espinoza does not have to recuse himself on the historic designation vote on this Jefferson Park house.

Denver City Councilman Rafael Espinoza apparently has been given the green light to discuss and vote on the controversial historic designation of a Jefferson Park home next month at a City Council meeting.

On Tuesday, Espinoza met for about 20 minutes with Denver Board of Ethics to determine whether he needed to recuse himself from voting on the historic designation recommendation for a house owned by James Sonnleitner at 2329 Eliot St., when it comes before the council on Nov. 16.

Espinoza got the ball rolling on the historic designation by filing a historic application with the city last May when he was a councilman-elect.

Earlier this month, the Denver Landmark Commission recommended a historic designation for the home, which is considered “hostile” because Sonnleitner does not want it.

Jefferson Park-based Adams Development has the home and surrounding property under contract for $1 million, but the sale is contingent on a Non Historic Status.

Adams could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Espinoza voluntarily sought the opinion of the ethics board.

“Basically, they made it clear that there was no actual conflict of interest and there was no objection to me sitting in on it,” Espinoza said. “Clearly, the board said I do not need to recuse myself.”

Rafael Espinoza

Rafael Espinoza

He said there is no conflict because he does not have any financial stake in the property.

However, he has not yet received a written order from the board, which makes the final decision a bit hazy.

“I am thoroughly confused,” Espinoza said. “I will abide by whatever I receive in writing, as well anything I heard.”

Michael Henry, executive director of the ethics board, said he wants his written order to speak for itself.

“We had a lengthy discussion with him and the board and I are working on a written order as we speak,” Henry said.

The order, he said, “will have some subtle nuances in it. It is like a court opinion written by a judge. Judges say let the opinion speak for itself. They don’t like to be quoted on their opinions and I don’t want to be quoted on this opinion. I want the written order to speak for itself.”

Espinoza said he may get the written order as early as today, although Henry said it might take a couple of days to complete it.

However, Henry did say the house in question has a “fascinating history,” given that it was once owned by William Anderson, a lawyer who briefly was involved in the defense of cannibal Alfred (sometimes spelled Alferd) Packer and later was charged with shooting Frederick G. Bonfils and Harry H. Tammen, the publishes of the Denver Post.

Espinoza said one thing he wanted to learn from the board, is if he should disclose his role in the historic designation, as it might be perceived as a conflict.

While his actions do not present a conflict, he said he will disclose his part in the saga, anyway.

“Absolutely,” Espinoza said. “I plan to say how this all came to be and my part in it.”

Interested in buying a home in Jefferson Park? Please visit

 Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.


Share Button

John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

More Posts - Website

Thank you to our sponsor

Our sponsor has made it possible to bring you this real estate resource for free. Please drop them a note and say thank you, and keep them in mind for your real estate needs.

Copy Protected by Tech Tips's CopyProtect Wordpress Blogs.