Strandlof out; no charges yet
After three weeks in jail on a misdemeanor traffic warrant, Marine impostor Richard Strandlof abruptly found his voice again this week, speaking with Denver television station KUSA (Channel 9) and a reporter with the New York Times. But with Strandlof's release from jail Tuesday afternoon, it was unclear how much longer the 32-year-old — better known locally by his assumed name Rick Duncan — would be in town to use it.
Strandlof, who claimed to be a Marine captain injured by an IED blast in Iraq, was unmasked as a fraud in mid-May. Before then, he had been an outspoken member of the veterans community, fighting for homeless vets living in Colorado Springs and founding the Colorado Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group. But Strandlof's story unraveled after CVA associates found he neither graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy nor served in the Marines. They also learned he had spent time in a Nevada jail for "unlawfully taking" a motor vehicle. Strandlof told the Times that he honed his wounded hero routine over several years after becoming fascinated by the plight of veterans.
FBI Special Agent Kathy Wright confirmed Wednesday that an investigation into Strandlof's activities is ongoing, but no charges have been filed, meaning Strandlof can go wherever he wants. Those who believe they may have been duped into giving money to Strandlof to support veterans' causes are asked to call the FBI's Denver office at 303/629-7171. — AL
No progress between LandCo and city
LandCo Equity Partners has settled its lawsuit against the U.S. Olympic Committee, but is still moving forward with legal actions against Colorado Springs. LandCo sued both its partners in a deal to retain the USOC's presence here after violations of the contract by all three partners put the project at risk and left LandCo with significant debt.
A release Wednesday from the USOC and LandCo stated: "Although the lawsuit between LandCo and the City continues, the USOC and LandCo hope that a full resolution of all disputes between LandCo and the City can be reached so that the project can be completed for the benefit of the USOC and United States Olympic athletes."
City Councilor Scott Hente says he feels the city is closer to putting its lawsuit to rest, too, though he says city negotiations with LandCo have been separate from LandCo's talks with the USOC.
"All I know is the two of them settled together," Hente says. "The city found out that they settled after the fact." — JAS
And then there were two
Jan Doran, a friend of Mayor Lionel Rivera's who worked on his campaign, has recused herself from the city's three-member Independent Ethics Commission charged with determining whether Rivera acted with a conflict of interest in helping select LandCo Equity Partners as developer in the $53 million U.S. Olympic Committee deal.
Doran, who previously insisted she could make an unbiased decision, says she is taking "the high road."
The mayor has been accused by Ron Johnson of having a direct financial relationship with LandCo. Johnson has not produced any proof but continues to insist his charges are true and recently hired an attorney. Councilor Scott Hente, another friend of Doran's, says he feels the Gazette and other media have taken unfair potshots at Doran, who is a volunteer. It was unclear as of press time whether a substitute would fill Doran's position. — JAS
Cesar Chavez audit requested
John Covington, departing superintendent of Pueblo City Schools, has sent a letter to Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones, formally requesting an investigation of the Cesar Chavez School Network. The request comes after media coverage, including an Independent story ("Leader or cheater?" News, June 4), pointed to network administrators' high salaries and testing inconsistencies.
Covington's letter calls on the state to conduct an investigation of the network, with schools in Pueblo and Colorado Springs and one opening soon in Denver. In the past, CDE declined to investigate Cesar Chavez, saying the district is responsible. — JAS
Marian House addition open
The Marian House, at 14 W. Bijou St., will celebrate the opening of the Bishop Richard C. Hanifen Center on Thursday, June 11. The center will provide services to help people be more self-sufficient, including assistance with housing, employment, life skills, education, and more. Emergency assistance programs of Catholic Charities will also be in the center, and SET Family Medical Clinics will relocate back to the property, which should reduce stress on emergency rooms.
The million-dollar Hanifen Center joins the Marian House Soup Kitchen, which serves 600-plus meals most days. To get involved with the New Marian House, call 201-2991 or log onto helpmarianhouse.org. — KV
Gen. Petraeus speaking here
Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander for U.S. Central Command, will be the keynote speaker at the fifth annual For the Love of Our Troops fundraiser Nov. 4 at the Broadmoor International Center. It's sponsored by The Home Front Cares (447-3838), a local nonprofit founded in 2003 that provides financial assistance to Colorado military families.
Tickets range from $125 per person to $1,250 to $2,500 per table. Go to thehomefrontcares.org/Events.html for more. — VL
State Dems looking 'green'
Talk about party lines. The area's state assembly members showed their true colors on the annual Colorado Conservation Voters "Scorecard," which ranks members of the state Legislature based on their votes on key environmental bills throughout the year. This year, lawmakers were ranked based on 13 bills concerning everything from clean water to transportation, wildlife and protecting health and the environment from the effects of the oil and gas industry.
All three of the area's Democratic lawmakers — Sen. John Morse, Rep. Dennis Apuan and Rep. Michael Merrifield — scored a perfect 100 percent on the green test. Meanwhile, area Republicans' scores were mostly abysmal. Sen. Keith King went green on two of the 13 votes, Sen. Mark Scheffel on just one, and Sens. Bill Cadman and Dave Schultheis on none. House Republicans did slightly better: Rep. Kent Lambert finished with one, Reps. Mark Waller, Larry Liston, Amy Stephens and Carole Murray, three, and Reps. Marsha Looper and Bob Gardner, four. Cadman and Schultheis were two of only three lawmakers statewide to receive zeroes, the first zeroes since 2001.
To see the scorecard, visit coloradoconservationvoters.org. — JAS
Grace dispute might be over
The knock-down, drag-out fight over who wronged whom in the dispute over Grace Church seems to have ended following a "marathon" mediation session between the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and members of the breakaway Anglican congregation who held onto the church property for two years.
"The result was that the Anglicans gave up all claims to the property," explains the Rev. Martin Pearsall, head priest of what is now Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.
A judge returned the historic church building at 601 N. Tejon St. to the Episcopal Diocese in March, but the breakaway group, headed by the Rev. Don Armstrong, had left open the possibility of an appeal. The mediation session removed that possibility, Pearsall says, while also clearing the air of a penalty phase of the civil trial in which members of the Anglican congregation could have been assessed for damages to the diocese.
"It seemed to everyone's advantage to stop the silliness," Pearsall says. Armstrong, who now heads the newly established St. George's Anglican Church, still faces 20 counts of felony theft for allegedly embezzling church money. — AL
Ritter angers unions, again
Once demonized by Republicans for his support of workers' rights, Gov. Bill Ritter is now earning unions' wrath. On June 4, Ritter vetoed the Firefighter Collective Bargaining Bill, which would have given Colorado firefighters' unions bargaining rights, though it would not have allowed them to strike.
Ritter said he felt passing the bill would mean casting aside voters' preferences. Some Colorado cities already allow collective bargaining by firefighters; others, including Colorado Springs, do not.
In response, firefighters rallied in Denver. Colorado Springs Professional Fire Fighters, Local 5 union issued an angry press release accusing Ritter of making "empty promises." Ritter had recently angered unions by vetoing a bill giving extended unemployment benefits to union workers if they were locked out by an employer. The veto came as supermarket workers struggle to negotiate a new contract with their employers. — JAS
Compiled by Anthony Lane, Virginia Leise, J. Adrian Stanley and Ken Voeller.