Mike Dunafon (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

Dank drama develops over Glendale pot shop OK’d by mayor

Ethics complaint filed: Mayor Mike Dunafon originally recused himself from voting on then-girlfriend's — now wife's — application for Smokin' Gun recreational shop, then he stepped in to cast a tie-breaking vote

Colorado Ethics Watch has filed a complaint with the city of Glendale, asking that the City Council censure Mayor Mike Dunafon after he voted to approve a plan for a new recreational marijuana store owned by his now-wife.

His wife, Debbie Matthews, is majority owner of the Smokin’ Gun, a recreational marijuana store on Colorado Boulevard that is scheduled to open as soon as next week.

The City Council, with Dunafon’s help, narrowly approved the site plan by a 4-3 vote last February for the pot shop next to Shotgun Willie’s, a strip club Matthews also owns. At the time, the couple wasn’t married.

Dunafon had recused himself initially from the vote because of the potential for a perceived conflict of interest. However, when the vote was tied at 3-3, deputy city manager Chuck Line said the mayor was able to break the tie under Colorado statute, according to minutes from the meeting posted on the city’s website.

Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, said the city charter and the city’s ethics code do not address the issue of when someone who has recused himself is permitted to vote. City officials confirmed that as well.

Toro said state statutes are not relevant here because Glendale is a home-rule city governed by its own rules.

The complaint was filed with the City Council on Friday.

“What’s odd about that is he initially recused himself because of that conflict,” Toro said. “The point is he recognized he had a conflict of interest with the Smokin’ Gun.”

City attorney Jeff Springer said the point is moot because Dunafon wasn’t married to Matthews at the time of the vote. The Jefferson County clerk’s office confirmed the two were issued a marriage license July 25.

Springer also said the council — at its next meeting after the 4-3 vote — reconsidered the Smokin’ Gun plan, and it passed 5-1. The mayor did not vote that time.

Dunafon recused himself in the first vote “out of an abundance of caution,” Springer said. Springer also questioned why Colorado Ethics Watch filed the complaint nearly a year after the council approved the measure.

“This is much ado about nothing,” he said.

Gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunafon has no party, little money, but lots of appeal
Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon, with wife Debbie Matthews. (Cyrus McCrimmon, Denver Post file)

Toro said his organization only recently learned of the vote from an anonymous tipster.

Dunafon, at the Smokin’ Gun on Wednesday, said there was no conflict of interest in his tie-breaking vote.

When asked why he was at the shop, he answered: “I’m married to the owner.”

Dunafon ran unsuccessfully for governor as an unaffiliated candidate in 2014. He was a star wide receiver at the University of Northern Colorado and was on the roster of the Denver Broncos in 1976 and 1977 until injuries ended his NFL career.

Dunafon owns a castle-home in Idledale.

Springer said the Glendale City Council will consider Colorado Ethics Watch’s request for censure, or reprimand, at an upcoming meeting.

Colorado Ethics Watch also filed a complaint over the liquor license renewal of Shotgun Willie’s, but Dunafon never voted on that because he is allowed to vote only to break ties.

Carlos Illescas: 303-954-1175, cillescas@denverpost.com or @cillescasdp

This story was first published on DenverPost.com