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Springs loses PERA case, Broadmoor cuts staff hours, more 

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Editor's note: The "Talking election tweaks" item was updated on Feb. 24 to reflect that it's the Colorado Springs Rising Professionals, not the Colorado Springs Young Professionals, who are helping put on the upcoming public meetings.

Broadmoor cuts staff hours

Last week, the Broadmoor hotel cut many of its full-time workers' paid hours from 40 per week to 32, CEO and President Steve Bartolin confirms. The cutbacks, which include some management staff, are in effect until April, Bartolin says.

The hotel currently employs about 1,100 full-timers; Bartolin can't say exactly how many are affected. "It's not across the board, but it's still pretty significant," he says.

Bartolin says the hotel made the cuts because it's less busy in the winter and because the hotel has 152 guest rooms out of commission as part of a two-year, $112 million renovation. The rooms are scheduled to reopen in spring.

Workers will not lose their health insurance due to the change, he says, because the hotel offers insurance to anyone who averages 32 hours a week and will make exceptions for those who fall below that threshold due to the cutbacks. Asked how workers should cope with the loss of salary, Bartolin says hotel employees likely understand that hours are less reliable in the off-season, noting that a "major competitor" had cut hours even more severely.

"Everyone knows you put hay in the barn when the sun shines," he says. — J. Adrian Stanley

City considers PERA loss

Colorado Springs City Council will meet in closed session at noon Wednesday to discuss the Feb. 11 ruling against the city in its lawsuit with the Public Employees' Retirement Association. Retired Judge Harlan Bockman ruled the city can't pull Memorial Health System workers out of the PERA system without following state law.

The case stems from the city's claim it could transfer some 4,000 workers at city-owned Memorial Health System to lessee University of Colorado Health and pay nothing toward their retirement benefits. UCHealth paid the city $259 million for the 40-year lease, effective Oct. 1, 2012, including $185 million for a PERA payment. Interest of roughly $15 million has since accrued.

"We believe the court said the interest amount also applies," PERA attorney Adam Franklin says. "If [city officials] want to continue to fight this battle, we believe this interest will continue to accrue."

It's the latest in several losses on legal matters since Mayor Steve Bach hired Chris Melcher as city attorney in October 2011. Melcher resigned effective Jan. 31. — Pam Zubeck

New MJ memo confuses

For Valentine's Day, the U.S. Department of Justice got the country a memo apparently aimed at inspiring banking institutions to work with the marijuana industry, something that in theory could change the way many MMJ dispensaries do business in Colorado Springs and elsewhere, and shape the burgeoning recreational business in Colorado.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole states in the memo that federal prosecutors should use the eight priorities previously identified in an August memo to decide if unusual action needs to be taken in the case of a cannabis banking transaction. Those priorities include preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing gangs and cartels from receiving revenue from marijuana sales and preventing weed from leaving the states in which it's legal.

"That guidance seeks to mitigate the public safety concerns created by high-volume cash-based businesses without access to banking and the financial system," says Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh in a release, "while at the same time ensuring that criminal organizations ... do not have access to the financial system to launder criminal proceeds."

Unfortunately, it may not mean much if our state's member institutions agree with the Colorado Bankers Association, which issued a statement saying that the new DOJ memo "only reinforces and reiterates that banks can be prosecuted for providing accounts to marijuana related businesses." — Bryce Crawford

Talking election tweaks

Changes in Colorado Springs city elections will be the focus of six upcoming public meetings hosted by groups including Citizens Project, the League of Women Voters, and Colorado Springs Rising Professionals.

The changes include moving city elections to November of odd-numbered years instead of April; modifying the number of council districts, now six with three members elected at large; requiring candidates to receive a majority vote rather than a plurality, which would trigger run-off elections; and drawing new district boundaries every 10 years to coincide with the U.S. Census, rather than every four years.

Such changes require voter approval, because they would alter the City Charter.

Citizens Project director Kristy Milligan says the 2012 redistricting process didn't have as much public involvement as some wanted. So her group proposed and Council adopted a measure requiring more public hearings and establishing a citizen committee to advise the city clerk and Council.

The meeting schedule: Feb. 27, 5:30-7 p.m., Rockrimmon Library, 832 Village Center Drive; March 6, 5:30-7 p.m., Ruth Holley Library, 685 N. Murray Blvd.; March 11, noon to 1:30 p.m., Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave.; March 20, 5:30-7 p.m., East Library, 5550 N. Union Blvd.; March 26, 5:30-7 p.m., Fire Station 20, 6755 Rangewood Drive; April 7, 6-7:30 p.m., Deerfield Hills Community Center, 4290 Deerfield Hills Road. — Pam Zubeck

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