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DA takes action in Morse case, Bach safe from ethics complaint, more 

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Recall charges filed

Last summer, when state Senate President John Morse was facing a recall election, his campaign manager said her team had found obvious forgeries in the petitions used to justify the election. Christy Le Lait said she was turning the evidence over to the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office for investigation.

Morse went on to be recalled, and the accusations appeared to have been forgotten. But last week, the DA's office said there was merit to Le Lait's claims.

Of the 28 signatures the Morse campaign found suspect, 13 were collected by one paid signature-gatherer working for Kennedy Enterprises. The DA found those signatures do appear fraudulent.

Thus an arrest warrant was issued for Nickolas James Robinson, who is suspected of committing 13 counts of attempt to influence a public servant (Level 4 felonies), 13 counts of forgery (Level 5 felonies), and seven counts of perjury in the second degree (misdemeanors).

Though Le Lait also pointed to discrepancies with four other paid signature-gatherers, DA spokesperson Lee Richards says, "Those are the only charges at this time."

Le Lait says she hopes the DA will continue to investigate."It's a shame it took so long," she says. — J. Adrian Stanley

Ethics complaint 'frivolous'

The city's Independent Ethics Commission has labeled a complaint against Mayor Steve Bach "frivolous," prompting the complainant to issue a statement saying, "The deck is stacked against the citizens and the Mayor has used that to his advantage, as he runs amok."

Kanda Calef, a conservative political operative, filed a complaint against Bach late last year alleging he violated the city's Ethics Code, which bars those covered by the code from making "unauthorized commitments or promises of any kind purporting to bind the City."

At issue is a Nov. 8 letter Bach wrote to state Economic Development Director Ken Lund, stating several ways the city could help fund its $250 million City for Champions tourism project. Bach doesn't have direct control over those revenue sources, such as sales tax increment financing and the general fund, Calef noted.

In a letter to Calef, the Ethics Commission acknowledged Bach's letter "should have been more clearly worded," but still said the complaint would be dismissed as frivolous. — Pam Zubeck

Kids hospital may come

Fifteen months after the city leased Memorial Health System to University of Colorado Health, UCH is planning to expand pediatric and adult services in Southern Colorado and possibly build a new children's hospital next to Memorial Hospital North.

Children's Hospital Colorado took over Memorial's Children's Hospital on Oct. 1, 2012, when UCH leased the city-owned health system. But Children's isn't a signatory to the lease, which means the city's revenue-sharing agreement doesn't include revenues from Children's, unless it uses Memorial's facilities. Building a new children's hospital next door would mean no additional revenue for the city.

In a news release, Memorial notes a new facility could "drive economic development and new jobs." — Pam Zubeck

Flood insurance rates drop

Colorado Springs residents are eligible for lower rates on flood insurance since the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System upgraded the city from Class 7 to Class 6.

The voluntary program rates cities on a 1-to-10 scale (1 is the best), based on the extent they exceed its minimum guidelines for flood damage control, preparation, education, mapping and regulations.

The change means a savings of 5 percent on premiums. City residents' discount on insurance, due to city participation in the program, is now 20 percent.

Residents who want to purchase flood insurance should check floodsmart.gov for more information. There is a 30-day waiting period before the insurance goes into effect. — J. Adrian Stanley

Oil drilling returns

Denver-based NexGen Oil & Gas began drilling an exploratory well last week in northeastern El Paso County for its Mustang Creek Project.

Ultra Resources and Hilcorp Energy both drilled wells locally in 2012, but pulled out after unsatisfying results. However, both of those companies were drilling into the Niobrara shale formation, which sits about 5,000 feet underground. Mustang will target layers known as the Pennsylvania and Mississippian, about 9,000 to 11,000 feet down.

Drilling is expected to last three weeks. The company will then analyze data before deciding whether to drill further. Diana May, assistant county attorney and local government designee, says NexGen will be looking at the quality of the oil.

"There's oil underneath there," she says. "The way they explain it to me is, has the earth heated it up enough to make it commercial oil that they can make money off of?"

She adds: "The odds are that they're not going to find anything ... but they're going to try."

May says the company is not fracking at this point, but could in the future if favorable results are found. Fracking is legal in El Paso County.

No other companies are expressing interest in drilling locally. — J. Adrian Stanley

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