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Noted: ACLU files suit on postcard policy 

Boulder challenged; El Paso County has same policy

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has filed a class-action suit in U.S. District Court against Joe Pelle, Boulder County sheriff, and Larry Hank, the sheriff's jail administrator and division chief.

The ACLU accuses both men, in their official capacity, of violating the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of jail residents by installing a policy that only allows postcards to be used for most written communication. Before the rule, inmates were allowed to write letters.

Boulder installed the policy early this year, and the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center followed suit recently. Local Sheriff Terry Maketa said he was encouraged when Boulder's policy wasn't initially challenged, and eventually he decided to write a similar policy for the local jail in order to improve efficiency and security.

The ACLU, however, says the Boulder policy violates the rights of both inmates and their free-world correspondents. Citing real-life examples from the Boulder County Jail, the ACLU notes that the new policy prevents inmates from discussing private medical conditions with family or caretakers, and from having private communications on parenting or spousal issues. It also keeps inmates from sending artwork or articles to publications.

A portion of the suit states, "The policy either chills prisoners from writing about sensitive personal matters entirely, or it requires them to expose their communications to a host of strangers or unintended recipients." — JAS

Voter turnout tops 33,000

As of Tuesday, 33,457 El Paso County voters had cast ballots in the Aug. 10 primary election, according to election manager Liz Olson. That's less than 10 percent of the 364,443 registered to vote in the primary.

Early voting is under way this week at the Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., office. Polls will open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. If you're unsure of your polling place — and it may have changed — check it at car.elpasoco.com/Election.

The election will decide party nominees in the U.S. Senate race, as well as Republican nominees for governor, state treasurer and El Paso County sheriff. — PZ

Mayor initiative strengthens

Citizens for Accountable Leadership turned in 36,305 signatures in support of a "strong mayor" ballot measure to the City Clerk's Office on Aug. 3, far more than the 25,091 valid signatures needed.

The group also officially launched its "Mayor Project" campaign.

"It's time to bring accountability to City Hall," Andy McElhany, campaign spokesperson and former state senator, said in a press release, "and this proposal is the first step to positive change."

If voters approve a strong-mayor measure in November, the office of city manager will be eliminated and the office of mayor will be given greater powers.

Current mayor Lionel Rivera is term-limited. As of press time, three people had active candidacies: Challenger Homes owner Brian Bahr, defense contractor Buddy Gilmore and Council of Neighbors and Organizations president Dave Munger. — JAS

Focus on the layoffs

Focus on the Family has experienced yet another massive layoff.

The organization, which built a reputation around anti-gay, anti-abortion staunch conservatism, laid off 110 workers on July 30, leaving it with a staff of 750 — about half of what it was in 2002.

The layoffs are due to decreased donations, which the organization blames on a sour economy and a recent change of leadership. Founder James Dobson left Focus and started a different organization earlier this year. — JAS

Osburn exits stage left

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's theater director, Alan Osburn, announced his resignation late last week. Reached Tuesday, Osburn declined to comment, but he released a statement thanking the FAC board of directors, several committees and those he worked with.

Osburn was hired as interim artistic director in 2006 and was promoted to a permanent position in 2007. One of his biggest successes was last season's production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, in which he both starred and directed.

With a national search planned for the position, the FAC will likely begin its 2010-11 theater season (which includes An Ideal Husband, The Producers and 1776) under an interim director. CEO and president Sam Gappmayer said Tuesday that he has some interviews lined up for next week.

"There's a couple of internal opportunities and there's some external ones," he says, "but we haven't made a decision there yet."

As for Osburn's plans, Gappmayer says, "He said he had a couple of irons in the fire, but he hasn't told me exactly what. It came as a surprise to me, and we hate to see him go."— EA

FAC mediation fails

A discrimination charge that curator Tariana Navas-Nieves has filed against the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center could not be settled in mediation in late July.

Navas-Nieves went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2009, following her demotion to a part-time position. In her complaint, she alleges the decision was based on her sex and race. (See "Work in progress," May 20.)

Mediation is an optional step, but the EEOC encourages it. When it fails, the EEOC pursues an investigation, which involves interviews and document review. If the EEOC finds a violation of the law, it may seek another settlement with the employer. If a settlement cannot be reached, the agency may take legal action, or grant Navas-Nieves a Notice of Right-to-Sue.

An investigation could last anywhere from several months to more than a year, says Navas-Nieves' lawyer, David Lane.

When asked why the mediation failed, FAC CEO and president Sam Gappmayer replied, "We both agreed going in not to discuss the content of the mediation."

Navas-Nieves is still an employee of the FAC. — EA

Intel deal still pending

El Paso County's acquisition of a portion of the Intel campus on Garden of the Gods Road might get hung up for a time due to negotiations of utilities.

The county plans to buy the building, at 1555 Garden of the Gods Road, and renovate portions of it to house the assessor, treasurer, health department, workforce center and human services.

An item on Thursday's Board of County Commissioners agenda calls for approval of a contract addendum dealing with utilities, but county spokesman Dave Rose says the item might get postponed.

"That complex has a huge electric and cooling infrastructure that it won't need in its new life," he says, noting that not as much cooling is needed in office space as in, say, chip manufacturing space. "The utilities issue is very complex and requires special consideration in the contract as to who's going to be responsible for what."

The project will cost the county roughly $50 million and will be funded by issuing certificates of participation. Rose says the utilities issue likely will be resolved so that agencies will begin moving in late September and October. — PZ

Compiled by Edie Adelstein, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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