A lot of buzz is swirling about Colorado Springs mayoral candidate Steve Bach. But it's hard to know who to believe — his first ex-wife who says he beat her during a brief, turbulent marriage, or Bach, who denies it.
Given that standoff, and the need to vet the pasts of Bach as well as his opponent, Richard Skorman, we checked out the 68-year-old commercial real estate broker using sources that don't lie: public records.
Land deeds, court documents, and other state and local records tell the story of an up-and-coming businessman who, well before rising to the top of the local development scene and seeking the city's most coveted political office, went through two failed marriages and tried to railroad his father-in-law out of the family business.
We placed two calls to Bach's campaign seeking an interview, and asked the candidate himself for an opportunity to discuss his past. Bach said he was agreeable to it, but his campaign failed to schedule a meeting.
A rocky start
A Kansas native, Bach served in the Army and was posted at Fort Carson. He earned a business degree in three years from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, graduating on June 7, 1968. Two days later, he and Marian Verburg were married by a Presbyterian minister and moved into a small apartment near Colorado College. Several months later, they moved to Ohio, Marian says, where Bach worked for Procter & Gamble for a short time before returning to the Springs.
The marriage went sour in less than a year, and on Aug. 14, 1969, Marian won a divorce from Bach in which she cited "mental and physical cruelty" as grounds for her petition. Bach didn't show up for the court hearing and was ordered to "deliver over" to Marian certain household goods.
On Sept. 21, 1970, Bach bought a house on Nevermind Lane for $35,400 from Bruce Shepard. And the next year, Bach landed a job at Looart Press (now known as Current) as director of marketing.
Sometime in 1971 or 1972, Bach met Jane Watson, daughter of the late Tucson, Ariz. developer Jules Watson, who moved here and virtually created the unincorporated area of Widefield. Jules Watson owned Widefield Homes, Widefield Supply and S J Development, which operated as Widefield Water Co.
On April 15, 1972, the couple wed in Tucson, and a year later, on April 27, 1973, they bought an acre of land on Cypress Lane in the Broadmoor area. That same year, Bach was named vice president of marketing at Looart. In September 1974, their daughter, Alison, was born, and the next year their new $80,000, 5,485-square-foot Cypress Lane home was completed. Bach sold the Nevermind house that year for $46,750.
By June 12, 1979, Bach had joined the Watson family business by becoming a director in S J Development along with Jules and local attorney Tim Dix.
Winning a settlement
But things didn't work out, and Jane filed for divorce on Oct. 23, 1980. In the months after that, according to a March 10, 1981, motion for a restraining order filed by Jane, Bach laid plans to assume control of the Watson empire. She said he planned to oust Jules Watson at a special meeting on March 11, 1981, and to install new directors.
In the motion, which sought to block the meeting, Jane described Bach as "emotionally upset, distraught, and unable to deal with day-to-day problems." The motion also says he resorted "to the use of alcohol in response to the domestic problems and business problems brought on by the estrangement of the parties." His alcohol use, the motion states, "resulted in excessive absenteeism" at work, and he was "involved in automobile accidents which would indicate his inability to cope with the situation at hand."
Police records involving Bach, if any exist, have long since been destroyed, police say, and El Paso County jail records don't go back that far.
Supporting the motion, Jules Watson submitted an affidavit and documented reasons for his and Jane's concerns:
• Bach's absenteeism, according to an accounting filed with the affidavit. He was in the office all day only five out of 29 days in January and February 1981. He then went to Mexico for 14 days, due back the day of the special board meeting.
• Diversion of assets for personal use. A financial accounting also filed with the affidavit shows Bach spent thousands of dollars of company money on himself, including food, lodging, airfare and meetings.
• Bach's threat to remove Jules from his position as officer and director.
Jules Watson's affidavit argued that "such absenteeism, excessive expenditures and other mismanagement will result in a irreparable injury to the value of said corporations and the value of the common stock thereof insofar as the interest of Marjorie Jane Bach is concerned in such stock as marital property..." Those interests included her being a guarantor on obligations of the companies, the affidavit said.
Watson also noted "apparent discrepancies in insurance policies paid for by said companies for the benefit of said Stephen Green Bach instead of for the benefit of the companies."
District Judge Donald Campbell, "having examined the Pleadings, heard the statements of counsel, examined the affidavits, and now being fully advised in the premises," granted the restraining order barring Bach from voting on matters involving the companies "affecting the status of Jules H. Watson as director or officer of any of said companies."
Dix couldn't be reached for comment, and Jane's attorney has since passed away.
In April 1981, the divorce was granted, and three months later Jane deeded her half-share in the Broadmoor-area home to Bach. The separation agreement, financial affidavit and parenting plan have been sealed by the court.
Jane, who remarried, has refused to discuss her marriage to Bach. Her brother, Mark Watson, says in an interview that he wasn't privy to the court action or the squabble between his father and Bach, but he acknowledged Bach was paid around $1 million and left the company amid the divorce.
Jane's other brother, Frank Watson, says he moved here from Tucson in June 1980 and didn't know much about the falling out.
"My father being the CEO of all those companies, and Steve being president of all those companies, and Steve divorcing my father's daughter, there's not going to be good blood," he says. "Working in the same office wasn't conducive to either one of them."
Both brothers say that, to their knowledge, Bach never struck Jane. Says Frank: "I do support Steve in his election, and I wouldn't do that if he ever touched my sister."
On his birthday, in February 1984 at the same Cypress Lane home, Bach married Suzanne Gendron. In September that year, Bach sold the property for $390,000.
Before the marriage, in 1981, Bach bought a townhome on Blue Windsor Lane in the Cheyenne Mountain Resort area for $131,700. It would wind up in foreclosure, amid unusual circumstances, nine years later.
Bach borrowed $140,400 on the townhome from Otero Savings and Loan in June 1983 and sold the property to Jack C. Mason three months later for $162,500. Mason says he took over the Otero loan for Bach and later sold the house to another man, who in turn assumed the loan. The third owner defaulted, Mason says, "so they foreclosed on both myself and Steve."
In 1990, the Resolution Trust Corp., as conservator for the lender, foreclosed. But according to a public trustee's deed, it foreclosed only on Bach. All documents name Bach alone, including a public trustee notice of election and demand for sale, certificate of purchase and public trustee deed.
"I stepped into the middle of the situation and paid them off and they dropped the foreclosure," Mason says, adding, "If you're trying to get dirt on Steve, there's nothing on him. Steve has no culpability. It wasn't a default on Steve. When somebody takes out a loan, they're liable on that loan, regardless of whether someone [else] agrees to pay. It doesn't show on my credit report; nor should it show on Steve's credit report. It's been satisfied."
Signing documents for RTC was Doug Stimple, now associated with Elite Properties of America and a contributor to Bach's campaign. (See "Ties that bind.")
Bach and his wife now live in a townhome in the Pine Creek area of Briargate, for which the Bach 2008 Irrevocable Trust paid $433,000 in July 2008.
Bach unquestionably has been successful in real estate. Records show dozens of deals Bach and his firm, Bach Development Co., made in the 1980s. He since has worked in commercial real estate, currently as Bach Real Estate Partners, with clients including Macy's, charter schools and Ent Federal Credit Union. He's also served on the local Chamber of Commerce and Housing and Building Association boards.
Many in development and real estate have given to Bach's campaign, along with a who's who of locals and Republican operatives, such as El Pomar Foundation president and CEO Bill Hybl, $1,250; former state Sen. Andy McElhany, $1,000; and The Broadmoor, $10,000.
J. Adrian Stanley contributed to this story.
By the way...
The Independent also checked public records involving Richard Skorman, the other mayoral runoff candidate, and identified no obvious leads. Based on a database that dates to the 1970s, he's never been sued in El Paso County, except as a City Councilor along with other Councilors. Other filings, such as court documents, land deeds, and other state and local records, indicated nothing out of the ordinary.
— Pam Zubeck and J. Adrian Stanley