Denver officials would get a crystal-clear green light to accept a broad range of government-provided freebies, ranging from commemorative items to expensive travel, under a proposed change to the city ethics code that’s up for final approval early next month.

But while the move had been expected, it has drawn a formal protest from the Board of Ethics. The city-appointed panel sparked the debate over government-provided gifts last fall by issuing restrictive guidance under the current ethics code that called the practice into question.

The board’s advice was targeted at city departments and agencies that are seeking contract approvals or other decisions from the recipients of the items. Since then, Denver International Airport has come under particular public scrutiny for routinely paying for expensive business-class travel on overseas flights for airport officials, City Council members and staffers in Mayor Michael Hancock’s office.

This week, the councilman pushing the proposed changes to the code fired back with a defensive response to the ethics board’s opposition.

He argued that his proposed legal change — which would make clear that fellow city officials and departments are exempt from being considered “donors” of gifts — would resolve confusion for both officials and regular city employees. In his view, it’s impossible for one part of the city to give a gift to another because they’re part of the same government.

Handout photo

Denver City Councilman Kevin Flynn.

“The fact is, it’s illogical to put city agencies in the same category as contractors and lobbyists who are trying to get multimillion-dollar contracts,” Councilman Kevin Flynn said in an interview Monday after the council introduced his measure during its meeting.

A final vote is set for July 9. The proposal also would require officials to file new semi-annual public reports listing items received from city government that are

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