Here are the words of Colorado Springs' Tim Kile, describing in an e-mail what couldn't possibly be a more perfect job:
"While out for a hike [in the mountains west of Colorado Springs] I came across some utilities workers ...
"No big deal I thought until I saw what they were really doing ..."Fishing! "They saw us and tossed the poles in the city owned truck.
"Great way to spend a paid afternoon. This with two city trucks, free gas and drive-in access by a road the U.S. Forest Service has closed off."
In a subsequent interview, Kile describes the events in more detail. On May 15, a beautiful morning, he and his girlfriend, Mandy Smith, took his two Dalmatians up to a U.S. Forest Service area north of Woodland Park. Clearly marked postedin the middle of the road, in fact is a fiberglass sign from the U.S. Forest Service expressly prohibiting motorized vehicles. Kile and Smith parked their Jeep and set out for a 45-minute hike to the area that Kile describes as Farrish Reservoir. (Note: Colorado Springs Utilities has subsequently insisted its employees were fishing on ratepayer time at Stanley Reservoir, not Farrish.)
Anyway, they got close to the shoreline, where Kile says he and his girlfriend came upon two parked Colorado Springs Utilities vehicles a Jeep and a big Ford F350 pickup truck and three utility employees trying to reel in some big 'uns.
"They had three fishing poles and a tackle box," Kile reports. "And as soon as they saw us they pulled out of the water and wound up the poles real quick and put them in the back of the [utility] truck.
"I'm sure, like us, they didn't expect there would be anybody around."
Kile says that he and the gentleman in the tan fishing jacket had a little conversation, which went something like this: "I said, "It must be nice to bring in city-owned trucks to go fishing, and he said, "Yes it was,' but that he wasn't actually working [that day]. He pointed to the others and said they were [working]. The man also mentioned he had brought his dad along for the outing.
"Sure enough, an elderly gentleman was on the other side of the reservoir, fishing."
About that time, Kile started taking a few pictures. "As soon as they saw the camera they got shy and looked away," Kile says.
When he got back home, Kile forwarded the photos to Colorado Springs Utilities' chief executive officer, Jerry Forte, as well as to the head of human resources (and to yours truly). A week later, he got this e-mailed response from Scott Campbell, CSU operations manager for water services.
"Thank you for letting us know what you saw at Stanley Reservoir," Campbell writes. "I am sure you were quite surprised and maybe a little angry after hiking to Stanley expecting some solitude to find vehicles and people, let alone Utilities employees!
"I just wanted to follow up with you so you didn't think your input went into the abyss.I had the superintendent and supervisors of the employees you saw at Stanley investigate what happened.The employees were interviewed "out of the blue' and all had consistent versions of what was going on.
"We have addressed the blatant inappropriate behavior with formal corrective action and have clarified expectations for folks working in these areas to prevent future incidents.
"I agree with you that this is not the way we want to spend revenues from our customers nor do we want to send the false message that our employees get preferential treatment regarding access or recreation opportunities."
The morning of fishing clearly violates at least several CSU employee policies. Here are just a few possibilities: wasting time during working hours, using ratepayer vehicles for personal use and "creating or contributing to an unproductive work environment."
Utility department spokesman Steve Berry refuses to identify the employees. He says "corrective action" has been taken against one of them, which did not include that employee getting fired.
Many local backcountry enthusiasts have for years narrated with much resentment stories about how CSU employees use area reservoirs, many of which are closed off to the public, as their own private fishing holes.
The department routinely rejects such assertions. As spokesman Berry puts it, "We don't have special privileges."
But unfortunately for CSU, this fish tale wasn't one that got away.
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