Councilmember Bob Yates was the first candidate to announce he is running for city mayor. He did so through his newsletter, which was the subject of a recent code of conduct complaint. Credit: John Herrick

A special counsel hired by the City of Boulder has determined that Councilmember Bob Yates did not violate the city’s code of conduct rules when he collected city residents’ emails and added them as subscribers to his personal newsletter, the Boulder Bulletin. 

The special counsel report, released on Monday, July 24, effectively clears Yates of any wrongdoing as he gears up for his campaign for city mayor against two of his colleagues — Councilmember Nicole Speer and current Mayor Aaron Brockett. On Nov. 7, city voters will elect the mayor by a ranked choice vote for the first time. 

The report comes after a city resident in April 2023 filed a code of conduct complaint alleging that Yates violated the city’s privacy policy by collecting emails sent through the city’s contact form and adding them to his newsletter subscriber list. The complaint also alleged he gave emails to a political campaign opposing a 2022 ballot measure to create a library district

Jane Feldman, a Denver-based ethics consultant and former executive director of Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission, was hired by the city to investigate the complaint. Feldman determined that Yates did not violate code of conduct rules. 

First, Yates has denied that he shared emails with the campaign, Keep Our Libraries. In her report, Feldman said she also spoke to two organizers with the Keep Our Libraries campaign who either “did not recall” Yates sharing emails with the campaign or said “it did not occur.” As a result, Feldman determined Yates “did not provide access to his email list or specific names” to the anti-library district campaign or “any other third-party entity.” 

Separately, Feldman determined that Yates pays for a Mailchimp account to help manage his list of newsletter subscribers. According to her report, “Yates did collect the email addresses from citizens who emailed the City Council on public business.” 

Yates told Feldman he would reply asking them to join the list, and if they did not reply back, he “defaulted to adding them.” 

“He stopped that practice in October 2022, after complaints surfaced that he was doing that,” Feldman wrote. And because Yates said he no longer adds people to his subscription list without explicit permission, Feldman determined the “allegations regarding the violation of the City of Boulder Privacy Policy are moot.” 

The newsletter uses his official city council email address. But it is sent through Mailchimp, not the city’s email server. Feldman determined this was not an ethical violation, but recommended Yates use a different email address and “clearly state that the Boulder Bulletin represents his personal views and not the views of City Council as a whole.” 

The special counsel’s report brings to a close the last pending alleged code of conduct violation lodged by a Boulder resident against an individual city councilmember. At least 11 code of conduct complaints have been filed so far this year, more than in any given year in the last decade, according to city records. At least one complaint against city officials related to the construction of a modular home factory is still pending. 

More than half of the complaints named individual councilmembers, including Speer and Junie Joseph, who also represents Boulder in the state House of Representatives. Others named city officials, police officers, and the volunteers who served on the selection committee that nominated new members to the city’s volunteer-led Police Oversight Panel. The 11-member panel reviews internal investigations into complaints of alleged officer misconduct. 

So far, only two such complaints have been determined to have “merit,” according to the investigative reports. Those complaints centered around this year’s appointment process of six new members to the Police Oversight Panel. The special counsel investigating the complaints recommended that one panel member, Lisa Sweeney-Miran, resign due to evidence showing a bias against police. The Boulder City Council then voted to remove Sweeney-Miran.

As a result, panel members decided to pause their work reviewing cases and instead focus on revising the 2020 ordinance that created the panel. One goal was to prevent future complaints from stifling the work of the panel and ensuring that its work is taken seriously. 

Following the panel’s decision to stop its work reviewing cases, on May 22, a resident who has been critical of the panel filed a code of conduct complaint alleging the members were “staging a ‘strike’ against the citizens of Boulder they are obligated to serve.”

The following month, on June 15, the Boulder City Council passed a moratorium to allow the Police Oversight Panel to stop reviewing cases. 

On Monday, July 24, City Attorney Teresa Tate determined that the complaint against the Police Oversight Panel did “not constitute a violation of the code of conduct provisions because the moratorium passed by council has rendered the matter moot.”

Clarification: This story was clarified to indicate that while Yates used his city email address on his newsletter, it was sent out through Mailchimp, not the city’s email server.

John Herrick is senior reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering housing, transportation, policing and local government. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for He is interested in stories about people, power and fairness. Email:

Leave a comment

Boulder Reporting Lab comments policy
All comments require an editor's review. BRL reserves the right to delete or turn off comments at any time. Please read our comments policy before commenting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *