Friday, February 17, 2017

CSPD hands a records headache to District Attorney's Office

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 5:22 PM

Police Chief Pete Carey has a new problem on his hands. This time, it deals with reports that went poof in the electronic records system. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Police Chief Pete Carey has a new problem on his hands. This time, it deals with reports that went poof in the electronic records system.
Springs police popped out a news release at 6:33 p.m. on Thursday that isn't your run-of-the-mill notice.

The release, issued 6.5 hours after the Independent submitted a lengthy request for information regarding the issue, downplays a records management lapse involving approximately 3,000 police reports.

The Indy's sources suggest it's much wider in scope, and the fallout could send ripples through the criminal justice system. Read more about all that at on Wednesday or pick up our print edition.

For now, here's the CSPD news release.
The Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Division (MVNI) is a multi-jurisdictional drug task force consisting of law enforcement officers from the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD), the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, the Fountain Police Department, and the Woodland Park Police Department. MVNI operates under the policies and procedures of the Colorado Springs Police Department.

In early February, the CSPD discovered discrepancies in the case filing procedures utilized by MVNI while conducting an internal audit. It has been determined that some electronic case report documents were not consistently being transferred to the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office (DA). This process of transferring case documentation is commonly referred to as “discovery” in cases where criminal charges are pending against a defendant.

Changes to MVNI’s current case filing process were promptly implemented to remedy this issue. After preliminary research to determine the scope of the problem, the CSPD notified the DA’s Office on February 8th.

Through our initial review of affected cases, the information that was not provided to the District Attorney’s Office appears to be primarily administrative in nature. In an abundance of caution, the CSPD and the DA’s Office are evaluating all filed MVNI cases from 2013 forward and resubmitting the entire case files to the DA’s Office to ensure all of the information is provided to the defendants.

After evaluating our investigative case files throughout the department, we have determined that this issue appears to be isolated within the Metro VNI Division. We identified approximately 3,000 case filings, primarily narcotics-related investigations, over a four-year period that may have been impacted; however, that number may turn out to
be significantly smaller once we complete our review.

This review is ongoing. Additional information will be released at the end of our review.
CSPD spokesman Lt. Howard Black also notes in a separate email to the Indy: "Once the audit is complete, a press conference will follow."

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Gaebler snags Springs Professional Firefighters Association endorsement

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 3:11 PM

Gaebler: Firefighters like her in District 5 race.
  • Gaebler: Firefighters like her in District 5 race.
Colorado Springs City Councilor Jill Gaebler has landed the endorsement of the Colorado Springs Professional Fire Fighters IAFF Local 5.

In a message to Gaebler, Local 5 wrote:
We are pleased to announce that we have gone through our formal endorsement approval process via membership and we have chosen you as a candidate that we would like to endorse.

We are still in discussion as to how we can best benefit your campaign both financially and through volunteerism. We will be reaching out to you in the near future when we make a final decision as to how we can best contribute to your campaign.

In the meantime, you are welcome to mention that you have received an official endorsement from the "Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association". In addition, one of our board members will be reaching out to your campaign manager to inquire about future events.

We look forward to working with you and your campaign.
Gaebler is being challenged in central District 5 by businesswoman Lynette Crow-Iverson.

Voters will elect Council members in six districts in the April 4 city election, which is being conducted by mail.

For more election information, check out this site.

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Trump Tracker: Trump's press conference shows reality is his real opposition

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 12:22 PM

  • Illustration by Andrew Kleindolph

For a moment earlier this week, it seemed that the regime might have to come to terms with the reality the rest of us share. But President Donald Trump’s Thursday press conference reaffirmed the notion that objective reality is his real enemy.

As the story of retired-Gen. Mike Flynn’s ignominious resignation as national security advisor broke, the far, far right immediately said it was an establishment coup initiated by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. They felt like KellyAnne Conway and the Steves (Bannon and Miller) would be next.

They understood that if Trump conceded anything to reality, the entire edifice would crumble. He won the campaign on a Foucauldian casting of truth as a discourse designed to benefit those in power—whether the press, the scientists, the intelligence community, or the bureaucrats.

The far, far right saw Flynn’s resignation as a victory for the press and so did several news orgs. And then, when Andrew Puzder, the illegal-immigrant hiring Hardee’s hotdog and Carl's Jr. jefe, had to back out because four Republican Senators refused to support his bid for Secretary of Labor, it looked like the regime might begin to normalize despite itself.

Then Trump held that crazy-ass press conference. The bad week, Trump explained, was all a media conspiracy:

“Unfortunately, much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system. The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what’s going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

This is nothing new for Trump, of course, but it should kill the hopes of any optimist who thinks this is not going to end badly. The whole press conference was intended to make citizens distrust everyone but Tump. It only looks like he is doing so poorly because the elites are against him.

“I am talking — and really talking on this very entrenched power structure, and what we’re doing is we’re talking about the power structure; we’re talking about its entrenchment. As a result, the media is going through what they have to go through too often times distort — not all the time — and some of the media is fantastic, I have to say — they’re honest and fantastic,” he said.
“But much of it is not a — the distortion — and we’ll talk about it, you’ll be able to ask me questions about it. But we’re not going to let it happen, because I’m here again, to take my message straight to the people.”

Again, classic Trump authoritarianism. And now, despite the fact that he got five deferrals in Vietnam and never served, he claims to have used military equipment.

“But our country will never have had a military like the military we’re about to build and rebuild. We have the greatest people on earth in our military, but they don’t have the right equipment and their equipment is old. I used it; I talked about it at every stop. Depleted, it’s depleted — it won’t be depleted for long,” he said. 

No one asked “Uh, when did you use military equipment?” because there were so many goddamn other crazy things to ask about. And just to make sure no one can get too nitpicky, he throws in a lot of stuff that just doesn’t mean anything at all to keep everyone confused and off guard.

“Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It is a disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people our that representatives are representing.”
“Yes sir, who fills up the alleys with what people? And how does that relate to Obamacare?”

No one bothers because of course it means nothing. No one is filling any alleys with any people.

The stories about Russia were false but the fact that the information was illegally leaked is real, Trump insisted. When questioned too much on Russia, he went nuclear. And holocaust.

“Nuclear holocaust would be like no other,” he said.

Yes. Yes, it would.

There was plenty more chiding of the press and other embarrassing and crazy-ass stuff. But he also slipped in all the dangerous policy, like the fact that they are going to introduce a new comprehensive executive order next week to create a new travel ban; begin construction of the Keystone Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipelines; and fight drugs, which are now “cheaper than candy bars.”

“Excuse me, Mr. President. Where exactly are you scoring? Because I brought that claim to my guy, you know, and he told me to fuck off.”

But of course, the math is all beside the point. The purpose of the press conference was to reaffirm the alternate reality and comfort his base.

And it worked. Take Mike Cernovich, who declared the Flynn resignation a sign of Trump’s weakness. During the press conference, he tweeted, “Trump is crushing the opposition media right now, this is what he does best.”

But just to make sure, Trump finished the press conference with some profoundly troubling signals to the racists who support him.

First, he chided a Jewish reporter for asking about the rise in anti-Semitism. Then, when April Ryan, an African-American reporter, asked whether he would include the Congressional Black Caucus in his plans for the “inner cities,” Trump asked her to set up the meeting.

“Do you want to set up the meeting?” he asked.

“No — no — no. I’m not —” she said.

“Are they friends of yours?” he asked.

“I’m just a reporter,” she said.

“Well, then, set up the meeting,” he said.

This is one of those places where he just seems stupid but is actually most dangerous. In a single move he gives a nod to the Neo Nazis who support him, makes the insane assumption that all African Americans are friends, and that reporters and Democrats are actually allies.

Shortly after this, when asked about the extreme actions of his followers, he blamed racist graffiti and the like on his opponents.

“Can I be honest with you? And this has to do with racism and horrible things that are put up. Some of it written by our opponents. You do know that. Do you understand that? You don’t think anybody would do a thing like that. Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump, they’re put up by the other side and you think it’s like playing it straight?”

This is so Putin-esque that it reaches all the way around to Stalin. Blame your enemies for the actions of your followers.

But it is also a warning, an inherent threat of violence—and a clear sign of where he will place the blame for any violence.

There is no hope this man will moderate. His entire platform is the denial of reality. If we fail to recognize this, we are, whether we like it or not, accomplices.
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Littleton, as liaison to pension board, didn't know about lawsuit

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 5:22 PM

Littleton: In the dark. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Littleton: In the dark.
Ok. We admit it. We didn't realize something when we wrote the story about Dan Zook's problems with the El Paso County Retirement Plan, featured in this week's paper.

While reporting the story, we sought a comment from County Commissioners Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton. We asked them, because both have served for six years, while two newcomers just took office in January and another last summer.

Glenn didn't respond. While Littleton did respond, she said she had no knowledge of the case.

She didn't know that a seasoned prosecutor had gotten the shaft for the rest of his life under a little-known rule included in the pension fund, and she didn't know the pension board has spent nearly $200,000 on attorney fees.

That might be understandable to a point, except that now we learn that Littleton serves as liaison to the retirement plan's board.

Liaison generally means a commissioner stays in touch with various departments', boards' and commissions' concerns, issues, projects, programs and the like.

We asked Littleton this morning about how, as liaison, she could not have known about this case.

Here response, received at 4:54 p.m.: "As the liaison, I am not a voting member and so was not allowed to be part of any executive sessions where this may have been discussed."

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Department of Justice freezes local special investigations fund

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 12:06 PM

A bundle of cash seized during a drug bust by the CSPD. - CSPD 2015 ANNUAL REPORT
  • CSPD 2015 annual report
  • A bundle of cash seized during a drug bust by the CSPD.
The contrarian website that's dogging El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder recently posted allegations regarding the Special Investigations Fund.

From the posting:
A source close to Sheriff Bill Elder confirmed that last fall the Department of Justice (DOJ) completed an audit of the Special Investigation Fund (SIF), which is managed by The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO), and found some “irregularities” and/or fraud with the handling of these accounts. The severity of these “irregularities” were such that the funds, which total approximately 900k, were frozen until further notice.
According to the Sheriff's Office, there has been no finding of fraud, but it's true the local fund was frozen for about five months. Also, there might, indeed, be findings of "irregularities" and/or fraud in the future, because the DOJ review is ongoing and there's no specific date on which it will be completed.

Sheriff's Department Administrator Larry Borland tells the Independent that the "compliance review" that resulted in the account being frozen was part of a wider effort by the Department of Justice to test compliance of federal regulations by task forces across the country. The local unit that combines efforts of many local agencies — commonly called Metro VNI (vice, narcotics and intelligence) — is a task force.

"We've always been organized as a task force," Borland says. "The DOJ doesn't like task forces."

The DOJ froze spending from the account on Aug. 24, 2016. At that time, the account contained $621,035, the Sheriff's Office says.

Borland explains that while the Colorado Springs Police Department kept paperwork on funding, the county served as fiscal agent. The DOJ didn't like that arrangement, he says, so officials determined the "best option was closing the account and moving the money to the city," adding that the accounting change happened in September 2016.

"It's the tracking and reporting that was the issue," he says.

The money comes from forfeitures of property and cash in federal cases. Because the feds are part of the local task force, if local officers take part in an operation that results in a seizure of assets, the local unit gets some of the money.

The money can be used for overtime pay, equipment and drug buys that are part of an investigation, among other things.

Borland says that going forward, every agency that participates in the unit will track their own special investigation funds. "We'll have our accounts and they'll have their accounts," he says.

Sheriff's spokesperson Jackie Kirby reports the DOJ lifted the freeze on Jan. 25.

Here's an explanation Kirby initially provided the Indy about the DOJ inspection:
The City of Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD), the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) and the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, along with a number of smaller law enforcement agencies have operated a special investigations fund (SIF) for well over thirty years under an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) approved by the Colorado Springs City Council and the Board of County Commissioners. The sources of funds for this account were seizures of property ordered by state courts as well as federal equitable sharing funds which came from seizures conducted by federal law enforcement as a result of joint task forces operated in conjunction with CSPD and EPSO. Funds in this account were used by the Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Unit (Metro VNI), acting as a joint task force, to support primarily narcotics investigations. The fund paid for such items as overtime, vehicle leases, phone bills, tactical equipment and other items, all specifically approved by the SIF Board, consisting of the Colorado Springs Police Chief, El Paso County Sheriff and District Attorney. The financial practices for this fund have been in place for many years to include the previous three EPSO administrations. EPSO has acted as the fiscal agent for this fund many years. The fund has been audited numerous times by independent auditors with no significant findings.

In August of 2016, the fund underwent a routine federal Department of Justice (DOJ) compliance review. During this compliance review federal authorities discovered that the way in which the fund was receiving and accounting for federal equitable sharing funds did not meet current federal requirements. Specifically, the funds were deposited into a bank account owned by the County, while the City of Colorado Springs applied for the federal funds, as the agencies operated as a joint task force. The operation of a task force has different federal requirements from those contained in the Metro VNI intergovernmental agreement. The DOJ requested that we stop spending federal funds while we worked with them to develop procedures that would meet federal requirements. CSPD and EPSO complied with that request. CSPD and EPSO, along with City and County Financial authorities are continuing to work with the DOJ to finalize the compliance review. The do not spend request has since been lifted by federal authorities.
Asked about the review, CSPD spokesman Lt. Howard Black says via email, "The DOJ compliance review has had no impact on the day-to-day operations of Metro VNI."

Borland further explained that each agency that participates in VNI funds salaries and other expenses for VNI personnel from their general funds.

Kirby says that while the account freeze has been lifted, the compliance review is continuing and it is not known when it will wrap up. So the final chapter hasn't been written. Stay tuned for findings of the compliance review at some point in the future.

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PPACG turmoil leads to departure of a second senior leader

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 9:23 AM

Former PPACG Executive Director Rob MacDonald, left, and City Councilor Andy Pico, who chairs the PPACG executive committee. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Former PPACG Executive Director Rob MacDonald, left, and City Councilor Andy Pico, who chairs the PPACG executive committee.
The second shoe at Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments has dropped.

Craig Casper, who was paid $111,413 a year as Regional Transportation Director at Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, put in his last day on Feb. 9.

He and PPACG executive director Rob MacDonald had been placed on paid administrative leave on Dec. 22.

On Jan. 11, the PPACG board, comprised of officials from cities, towns and El Paso County, terminated MacDonald's employment arrangement effective Feb. 10.

Rick Sonnenburg, who oversees PPRTA, has been acting director since Dec. 22. The PPACG board is conducting a search for a permanent director. The job's pay range is $130,000 to $196,200.

Another person placed on leave on Dec. 22, PPACG finance manager Bev Majewski, returned from leave on Jan. 19. She's paid $95,305 a year.

Read more about woes at PPACG that lead to the employee shakeup here and here.

This blog has been edited to correct Casper's title.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Colorado Springs consultant tapped by Trump for EPA

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 4:36 PM

Patrick Davis: Named to EPA post.
  • Patrick Davis: Named to EPA post.
Patrick Davis, political consultant from Colorado Springs who served as the Colorado State Director and senior advisor to the Trump campaign, has been appointed by President Trump as a senior advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Owner of Patrick Davis Consulting LLC, Davis also has worked for various other political candidates at at one time handled communications for Neumann Systems Group, which invented and designed pollution control equipment installed at the city's Drake Power Plant.

While Davis lists the new temporary job with the EPA as being in Washington, D.C., he didn't say where he will serve in his new EPA role.

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Bark beetle in local forests impacts hundreds of millions of trees

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 1:40 PM

  • Photos Courtesy Colorado State Forest Service
  • Damage is evident on Wolf Creek Pass.
The condition of Colorado's forests is pretty pathetic, according to a new report on damage caused by the bark beetle.

The report was handed out today at the state capitol building and can be found here.

The Colorado State Forest Services news release:
Over the last seven years, the number of dead standing trees in Colorado forests increased almost 30 percent, to an estimated 834 million trees – or nearly one in every 14 standing trees. And this trend of increasing tree mortality – which is most observable in spruce-fir and lodgepole pine forests impacted by bark beetles – may result in forests conducive to large, intense wildfires like the 2016 Beaver Creek Fire that burned through beetle-kill timber northwest of Walden.
Grand County also is showing significant stress from a bug invasion.
  • Grand County also is showing significant stress from a bug invasion.
The 2016 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests distributed today ... at the State Capitol, highlighted this and other observed forest trends for the state. The theme of this year’s report is “Fire and Water,” focusing on how wildfires and unhealthy forest conditions impact human populations, water supplies and forested environments.

“When so many trees die and large wildfires follow, our forests quickly turn from a carbon sink into a carbon source,” said Mike Lester, State Forester and Director of the CSFS. “Beyond the implications for our atmosphere, forests in poor health have implications for our water supplies, public safety, wildlife and recreation opportunities.”

Highlights from this year’s report include:

· Colorado’s decades-long mountain pine beetle epidemic resulted in almost 3.4 million acres with some degree of tree mortality; an ongoing spruce beetle epidemic has thus far resulted in 1.7 million impacted acres.
· Approximately 80 percent of the state’s population relies on forested watersheds for municipal water supplies.
· Risks ranging from severe wildfires and insect infestations to long-term droughts are likely to be amplified in the future, as climate model projections predict statewide warming between 2.5 F and 6.5 F by 2050.
“With increasing changes in our forests, now is the time for determining how we will manage for projected future conditions,” said Lester. He says that actions the CSFS is taking now to address these threats include forest management efforts focused on watershed protection and reducing wildfire risk; providing seedling trees for restoration efforts; wood utilization and marketing; and insect and disease detection, surveys and response.

Much of what the CSFS accomplishes is through key partnerships with other agencies and organizations, including those with the U.S. Forest Service, Denver Water, the Northern Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs Utilities. The agency also offers or assists with many programs and resources for communities working to become fire-adapted, including Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs), Firewise Communities/USA® and the online Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal.

Each year, forest health reports provide information to the Colorado General Assembly and residents of Colorado about the health and condition of forests across the state, including recent data, figures and maps. Information for the reports is derived from an annual aerial forest health survey by the CSFS and the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, as well as field inspections, CSFS contacts with forest landowners and special surveys.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Council votes unanimously to pass anti-panhandling ordinance

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 6:18 PM

  • Nat Stein
On Tuesday at its regular meeting, every single City Council member voted to pass the "Median Access Ordinance" — a measure aimed at curbing (so to speak) people's right to stand on certain medians.

The medians now off-limits are those deemed to be dangerous. Criteria that'll be used to determine what makes a median suitable for pedestrian use include: speed (i.e. medians in a road with a 30 mile per hour speed limit or greater); volume (i.e. medians in roads classified as a freeway, expressway, parkway, principal arterial, or minor arterial on the Colorado Springs Major Thoroughfare Plan); and slope (i.e. medians that don't have a flat area at least 4 feet in diameter). The city's traffic engineering department will inspect medians throughout the city, then post notice signs at medians that the city no longer considers safe for you to stand on.

Ten days from now, when the ordinance takes effect, occupying a median that's visibly demarcated as off-limits could earn you a ticket carrying up to $500 in fines and/or probation. But you won't go to jail.

Some key points from the city's press release:

• The legislation is necessary because "an overwhelming number of drivers in our City have expressed concern about the safety of persons standing on narrow or sloped medians, and the distraction and safety hazards they pose to adjacent traffic."

•  It was developed "at the direction of the Mayor and City Council, Traffic Engineering, the Colorado Springs Police Department, and the City Attorney’s Office [who] worked together to develop this ordinance."

• When it comes to enforcement, "there is no 'education' period because this is a safety issue, and signage will inform pedestrians where median access is prohibited. CSPD is hoping for voluntary compliance."

So, all that said, read back on our previous coverage to see why some view this measure as unfairly targeting the city's homeless population, members of whom regularly solicit donations in public spaces like medians. Note that courts have held that medians are part of the public forum where free speech is protected and that passive solicitation — like, say, flying a sign — is a First Amendment right. Local laws aimed at stamping out panhandling on medians have been struck down elsewhere in the country, but the City Attorney's office claims that our new ordinance is "narrowly tailored" to address public safety, so as to skirt the constitutional issue.

The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees. Spokesperson John Krieger said Tuesday evening that "it's still our position [the ordinance] is overly broad. We will watch enforcement patterns closely to see if this ordinance is, in fact, enforced selectively against homeless people."

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Olympic museum gets $1 million boost

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 4:48 PM

The Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame got a little closer to its fund-raising goal Tuesday with the announcement by the board of directors of the Colorado Springs Downtown Development Authority (DDA) that it unanimously approved a funding commitment of $1 million for the project.

The project needs more money, and recently asked the city to fork over bucks from its lodgers and auto rental tax fund.

From a DDA release:
In prior years, the DDA had granted a total of $225,000 for a feasibility study of the museum, support for the City for Champions application to the state Regional Tourism Act, and planning components for the museum and southwest downtown area. That prior commitment, plus the additional $775,000 authorized by the board on February 14, 2017, brings the total commitment to the project to $1 million.

“The US Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame is a catalytic project not only for Downtown, but for our entire city,” said board chair Steve Engel. “The DDA is proud to have been a first-stage investor in this initiative with the initial feasibility study, and now seeing the project through this very important phase before groundbreaking.”

Project leaders for the US Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame intend to break ground in spring 2017. The building will become a landmark destination Downtown, and already has served to spur additional retail, restaurant, and residential growth and interest in the city center.

About Downtown Development Authority
Downtown property owners voted to establish the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in November 2006 to provide programs and financial support to encourage downtown development. DDA is governed by a board of 11 people appointed by Colorado Springs City Council. The DDA builds public and private investment partnerships that promote the economic growth of Downtown Colorado Springs. For more information visit, or contact Downtown Colorado Springs at 719.886.0088.

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Pico gets CSF endorsement, developer donations

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 4:46 PM

Pico: The developers' choice.
  • Pico: The developers' choice.
Andy Pico, seeking his second four-year term on Colorado Springs City Council, is the choice of the development community, according to his most recent campaign finance report.

Filed Monday, the report shows contributions to Pico's campaign from such big names as Classic Homes and Jim and Laura Johnson, owners of GE Johnson Construction Co., both of whom gave $1,000 each. Find the report below.

These are notable because Jim Johnson and Classic Companies CEO Doug Stimple are members of the Colorado Springs Forward board. CSF is a political activist organization that has vowed to pick candidates thought by its members to be good for the community and then get them elected. CSF was quite active in the 2015 city election, spending about $174,000. Its executive director, Amy Lathen, ran for mayor but wasn't elected, and in summer 2016 resigned her county commissioner seat to take the CSF job.

It's worth noting that so far CSF hasn't given any money to Pico via its political action committee, but although it hasn't announced its endorsement of Pico on its website, along with four newcomer candidates it has endorsed in other races, Lathen tells the Indy via email, "We have endorsed Councilman, Andy Pico. Updates are forthcoming."

Other development interests who gave to Pico's campaign: Ralph Braden with Nor'wood Development Group, $500; High Valley Land Co. and La Plata Communities, $1,250 each; Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs Political Action Committee, $4,000; Classic Consulting Engineers, $500; and Covington Homes, $500.

Pico also serves as chairman of the Colorado Springs Utilities Board. He represents the city's eastern district where the massive Banning Lewis Ranch is located, some 18,500 acres for which the 1988 annexation agreement is being renegotiated with owner Nor'wood Development Group. The terms reportedly focus on developer responsibility for infrastructure, parks and public safety facilities.

As of the Monday campaign finance report, Pico had raised $14,007 and spent $2,082. He's the only candidate to file so far for the reporting period that ended Feb. 10.

His opponents in that race include Robert Burns, Melanie Bernhardt and Janak Joshi.

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El Paso County jail inmate died from heart problems

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 1:53 PM

Inmate who died in the jail in January suffered from heart problems, the coroner says. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Inmate who died in the jail in January suffered from heart problems, the coroner says.
An inmate who died at the Criminal Justice Center on Jan. 27 had heart problems and diabetes, according to an El Paso County Coroner's Office report.

The office ruled the death of Damian Romero, 68, was the result of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, along with the "significant conditions" of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity and diabetes.

The day he died, Romero was being returned to the jail from Memorial where he'd been hospitalized for seven to eight days, Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby previously gold the Independent. "About two miles from CJC, the deputy noticed he was having issues," Kirby said. He radioed ahead, and sheriff's personnel met him in the sally port, the area where inmates are taken in and out of the jail, where life-saving efforts failed.

Romero was booked into the jail on Aug. 12, 2016, on charges of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, aggravated incest and pattern of abuse. Colorado Springs Police Department was the arresting agency.

Kirby said the jail's investigative team is looking into the Romero death because it occurred on jail property. No word on whether that investigation has been completed.

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Bennet calls for deeper look at Trump's ties to Russia

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 10:45 AM

The resignation of Donald Trump's White House National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, is leading some lawmakers to call for a deeper look at Flynn's talks with Russia, including a Colorado senator.

Bennet: getting tough on who knew what and when. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Bennet: getting tough on who knew what and when.
In a statement released Tuesday, Michael Bennet, a Democrat, said:
General Flynn's resignation is not enough. The American people deserve the full story, including when the White House became aware of General Flynn’s communications and whether anyone directed him to discuss our sanctions policy with Russian officials.

President Trump’s suggestion that illegal Washington leaks are the real concern must not distract us from the actual national security risk at hand. Questions remain about Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia. Congress must start a full, in-depth, bipartisan investigation immediately.
Bennet's reference to Trump's comment about "illegal Washington leaks" regards the president's contention that who told the media about Flynn's conversations with a Russian envoy is the real story, according to The Washington Post.

Trump loses a top advisor. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Trump loses a top advisor.
The Post, along with the New York Times, reported in recent days that conversations captured through intelligence work by the government demonstrated that Flynn spoke with the ambassador about sanctions even as the Obama Administration was imposing sanctions on the Russian government due to its interference with the 2016 presidential election. Those news reports were followed by Flynn's resignation Monday night.

Tuesday morning, CNN reported that Republicans are calling for an investigation:
The Senate's second-ranking Republican and other GOP senators are calling for an investigation into connections between President Donald Trump and Russia, and want former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to testify.

Sen. John Cornyn, who has called for an investigation into Trump's tie to Russia before Flynn resigned, told reporters Tuesday that the Senate standing committees with oversight of intelligence need to investigate Flynn. Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also told KTRS radio he wanted to speak with Flynn.
No word from Colorado's other senator, Republican Cory Gardner, on the Flynn departure.

We've asked for a comment on the resignation from Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, and will update if and when we hear something.

Meantime, the El Paso County GOP had this to say, via spokesman Danny Cole, "Trump evidently has not forgotten how to say, 'You're fired.' That's good news. The same people who derided Trump during the campaign as the 'You're fired' guy would have been among the most critical if Flynn had survived another day."

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Monday, February 13, 2017

City Council employees set for raises

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 2:58 PM

Denny Nester: Happy to get a raise. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Denny Nester: Happy to get a raise.
I guess you could say the Colorado Springs City Council is pretty tight with your money.

At least, there are two people who work for the nine-member Council who might think so.

Auditor Denny Nester is set to get a raise, but it works out to be only 1.7 percent. Of course, the dollar value is $2,558, which isn't chicken feed.

His current salary, effective March 29, 2015, is $146,223 a year. After the bump, his pay will be $148,781. The change is to become effective Jan. 1, 2017, which means he'll get a little boost for back pay to that date.

As for Council Administrator Eileen Lynch Gonzalez, she's also up for a raise of only 1 percent — $878. Her current pay, effective on April 7, 2015, is $87,781. Her new annual salary will be $88,659, which would become effective on Jan. 1, 2017, also.

Council members will vote on the raises in coming weeks.

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Panel looks for retired judge's replacement

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 2:45 PM

With the departure of an El Paso County judge due to forced retirement, it's time to think about seeing a new face take the bench.

The Colorado Judicial Department sets out that process in a release:
The Fourth Judicial District Nominating Commission will meet March 14, 2017, at the El Paso County Judicial Building to interview and select nominees for appointment by the governor to the office of county judge for El Paso County. The vacancy will be created by the retirement of the Hon. Jonathan L. Walker, effective Feb. 15, 2017.
To be eligible, the applicant must be a qualified elector of El Paso County at the time of investiture and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Colorado. The current annual salary for this position is $152,466. The initial term of office of a county judge is a provisional term of two years; thereafter, the incumbent county judge, if approved by the voters, has a term of four years.
Application forms are available from the office of the ex officio chair of the nominating commission, Justice William W. Hood III, 2 E. 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203; and the office of the district administrator, Danny Davis, 270 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, CO 80903. Applications also are available on the court’s home page at
The original, signed application and an identical copy stored as a PDF must be filed with the ex officio chair no later than Feb. 27, 2017. Late applications will not be considered. Any person wishing to suggest a candidate to fill the vacancy may do so by letter to be submitted to any member of the nominating commission, with a copy to the ex officio chair, no later than Feb. 21, 2017.
The members of the nominating commission for the Fourth Judicial District are: Jack Donley, Larry Gaddis, Beth Lieberman, Juan Moreno, and Mary Linden, all of Colorado Springs; and Daniel Nicholson and Philip Mella, of Woodland Park.

Here's the notice regarding the retirement of county Judge Jonathan Walker recently.
Pursuant to Rule 34 of the Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline (“Colo. R.J.D.) and based upon his consent, on November 8, 2016, El Paso County Judge Jonathan L. Walker was temporarily suspended with pay pending the outcome of the preliminary investigation and related formal proceedings related to this matter.

A Statement of Charges was filed on November 23, 2016. Judge Walker filed an Answer to the Statement of Charges on December 17, 2016. A hearing with three special masters was set for February 27, 2017 through March 1, 2017. The Statement of Charges and Answer asserted the following summarized claims and defenses:

a. The Judge engaged in undignified and disrespectful conduct, including harassment, toward three female Judicial employees, in violation of Canon Rules 1.2 (promoting confidence in the judiciary), 2.3 (bias, prejudice and harassment), and 2.8 (undignified conduct toward court staff). The Judge denied these allegations, asserting that his actions were misconstrued and that one staff member’s allegations were in response to a Judicial Branch evaluation of the staff member’s performance issues.

b. The Judge retaliated against another Judicial staff member once he learned that the staff member had been interviewed as part of an investigation into his conduct in violation of Canon Rule 2.16(B) (prohibition of retaliation) and 2.8(B) (undignified conduct toward court staff). The Judge denied these allegations, asserting he and this staff member did not get along and the staff member was a poor performer.

c. The Judge improperly modified plea agreements in a number of cases without informing the parties, violating his duty to promote confidence in the judiciary and avoid the appearance of impropriety and unfairness, in violation of Canon Rule 1.2 (promoting confidence in the judiciary) and 2.2 (impartiality and fairness). The Judge admitted that he modified plea agreements but asserted that his modification was lawful.

d. The Judge failed to disqualify himself from cases where his personal attorney was representing a litigant, in violation of Canon Rule 2.11 (disqualification). The Judge denied these allegations, asserting that he instructed a staff member to place his attorney on the recusal list and the staff member failed to do so without advising him. On the two occasions that his personal attorney appeared in his courtroom, the Judge asserted that he acted in conformance with his duty to disqualify himself.

Because Judge Walker has agreed to retire from the bench effective February 15, 2017, the Commission requested the dismissal of the proceedings pending against him. On February 9, 2017, the Colorado Supreme Court approved the recommendation of the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline for the termination of disciplinary proceedings involving Judge Walker.

The Court ordered that the conclusion of these proceedings should be made public. The Commission's records in other respects remain confidential.

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