Fire dispute continues
Adding fuel to a dispute over the early hours of the Black Forest Fire, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa released a detailed timeline Monday that shows Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey didn't relinquish control of the fire on June 11 as quickly as the Black Forest Fire/Rescue board has claimed.
Maketa's timeline shows Harvey handing off the fire to the state, which in turn named county Deputy Fire Marshal Scott Campbell as commander, at 4:49 p.m., not 3:10 p.m. as claimed by the board in a Dec. 10 news release.
Dispatch recordings accompanying Maketa's timeline show Campbell involved and seeking federal resources almost immediately after the fire was reported around noon. Then at 1:58 p.m., Campbell asks Harvey, "Hey Bob did you copy those asset orders I put in?"
Harvey: "Yeah, I kinda caught them. It looks like we're starting to make some good progress on this Scott, and catching it at this one address up off of Falcon."
At 2:03 p.m., Harvey describes the fire, which he named the Falcon Fire, as "slowing."
In an interview with the Independent on June 14 after a news briefing, Harvey said he knew immediately the fire was going to go big and that he passed control of the fire within the first hour.
"We were prepared for a fire event to happen, as extreme as the weather was," he said in the interview. He also said then that he held onto control as long as he did because "We thought we had an opportunity to catch this fire with the resources we had." He added, "There was no difference in the outcome and no difference in the ability to get resources" no matter who was in command.— Pam Zubeck
Massey in for Melcher
The woman who's paid her dues in a no-win position for the past year has been named interim city attorney.
Deputy City Attorney Wynetta Massey was chosen for the top post last week by Mayor Steve Bach, after having served as City Council's legal adviser since February. She was placed in that position after Council complained repeatedly about City Attorney Chris Melcher siding with Bach on legal issues at the expense of Council.
Melcher's resignation is effective Jan. 31, but he'll act as a consultant through July 31, the city says in a release.
Massey gets a 10 percent pay bump, to $139,277 a year, while serving in the interim role for the next 30 to 45 days. — Pam Zubeck
Caldara gets cleared
The Independence Institute's Jon Caldara is not going to jail.
In a Dec. 30 letter to Caldara's attorney, First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro states there will not be a criminal prosecution for his elaborate and highly publicized stunt amid the Sept. 10 recall election of state Sen. John Morse.
The four-page letter outlines how Caldara, a Boulder Republican, announced he would move into Senate District 11 in Colorado Springs and rent a room from Deputy District Attorney Mark Barker just long enough to cast a ballot. This, he claimed, would underscore the pitfalls of an election law adopted in May by Democrats. The law undermines the integrity of elections, Caldara said, because it allows people to cast ballots where they don't really live — as long as they swear they have the intent to move there.
Shapiro notes that when Caldara filled out a voter registration form Sept. 7, media in tow, he failed to state his new El Paso County address, making the process incomplete. Yet he was given a ballot. When Caldara submitted it, "he apparently did not cast an actual vote," Shapiro states. (The ballot reportedly was blank.)
Though he calls Caldara's actions "choreographed" and the lease "suspicious," Shapiro concludes there is "arguable ambiguity" in the law, and prosecution isn't "warranted or viable."
An AG's spokesperson says there's no word yet on another case involving political operative Alissa Vander Veen voting here while living in Pueblo County. — Pam Zubeck
United Policyholders return
Black Forest Fire victims face a major decision: whether to rebuild, buy an existing home somewhere else, or just take their insurance money and run.
Staff at the nonprofit United Policyholders will share their thoughts on the decision at a "Roadmap to Recovery" workshop, hosted in partnership with El Paso County, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9. The workshop will also include advice on "filling insurance gaps, financial planning information, and loan and construction financing options." It will be held at the Woodmen Heights Campus of Woodmen Valley Chapel, at 8292 Woodmen Valley View (tiny.cc/bjqb9w). — J. Adrian Stanley