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Gardner avoids perjury case

The Denver district attorney's office will not pursue a perjury case against John Gardner, a senior official in the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's office who apparently gave false information about his education when he testified in 2006 about his role in testing the state's electronic voting machines.

While "there was little question about the inaccuracy of Mr. Gardner's statements regarding his educational background," the Jan. 23 letter states, DA officials were swayed by the 2007 death of Denver District Judge Lawrence Manzanares. An interview with Manzanares, who presided in the '06 lawsuit, "would have been integral to a successful prosecution of the case."

Manzanares ruled that voting machine tests conducted by Gardner when he worked in the secretary of state's office were flawed, but Manzanares determined the machines could still be used in the '06 general election.

Gardner testified he had a bachelor's degree from Montana State University. He also claimed the degree in 2001 when he applied to work in the El Paso County clerk's office, and in 2005 when he applied to the state. Gardner did not claim the degree in June 2008 when he returned to his old job as information systems manager in the El Paso County clerk's office, and Montana State officials said they could find no record of him graduating.

Asked about the discrepancies, Gardner told the Independent he may have made an "error."

At that time, County Clerk Bob Balink answered questions about Gardner's "error" via e-mail: "WE DO NOT HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF ANY FACTS OF A VILATION [sic] OF LAW OR POLICY, EITHER COUNTY OR STATE THAT WOULD REQUIRE SEPARATIN [sic] OF EMPLOYMENT FROM EL PASO COUNTY."

Denver attorney Michael Williams called for the perjury investigation in an Oct. 8 letter, arguing that Gardner's apparent lie made a difference to the outcome of the trial. The Denver DA's response essentially says that there's no way of proving that, given Manzanares' death. Neither Balink nor Gardner could be reached for comment. AL

Utilities rates going up

Colorado Springs Utilities customers will soon be paying higher bills, after City Council voted Tuesday to approve hikes to water, electricity and wastewater rates.

As of Sunday, water rates will increase 41 percent, electricity 8.7 percent and wastewater 14.3 percent, raising the average monthly bill by $18.24. Water and wastewater hikes will be bigger for businesses.

Utilities officials state the hikes are necessary to offset the housing slump; fees paid by developers have long subsidized rates. CSU also needs more cash flow for projects like Southern Delivery System, and ongoing repairs and maintenance of infrastructure. JAS

DOC project on hold

Controversy hangs over Gov. Bill Ritter's recent decision to halt construction of a new headquarters for the Colorado Department of Corrections in Colorado Springs.

Though the shelving of the project was chalked up to the state's dire budget situation, Pueblo-area lawmakers who complained the selection process was flawed suggested other motives were at play.

"... I would say you have to credit our legislative contingency and all of us because we had put a lot of pressure on them," Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, told the Pueblo Chieftain.

The decision to keep the headquarters in Colorado Springs was announced last fall, but Tapia and other lawmakers blasted the bidding process, saying bids from Pueblo and Cañon City had come in millions of dollars cheaper.

Tapia told the Chieftain that the decision to keep the headquarters in Colorado Springs means the bidding process will have to be repeated if and when it's decided that the DOC still needs new offices. AL

Lawmaker deaf to Espaol

State Sen. Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs is protesting a Colorado Department of Transportation buckle-up ad targeted at the state's Spanish-speaking population.

"Bilingualism in our buckle-up ads just like bilingualism in our schools will only encourage further balkanization of our culture ... and make it harder in the long run for immigrants to become Americans," the Republican lawmaker told the Denver Post.

Colorado Department of Transportation, which spent $15,000 in federal funding for the ad and hopes to run it on Spanish-language TV stations, says Latinos made up 23 percent of the state's fatal-crash victims in 2008, and 59 out of 80 victims were not wearing seat belts, the Post reports. AL

Unemployment continues rise

Colorado may not have reached the nationwide 7.2 percent unemployment figure yet, but the way things are going, it may not take long.

For the first time since 1974, Colorado failed to add jobs in the month of December, as 5,900 more Coloradans found themselves unemployed. That brings total state unemployment at the end of 2008 to 6.1 percent, or 167,600 people. By comparison, 4 percent of Coloradans were unemployed in December 2007.

Colorado Springs is doing worse, with 7 percent reporting out of work in December.

"Although we have weathered the myriad of economic woes afflicting the nation better than most states, mounting evidence suggests that Colorado entered recession in the last quarter of 2008," Donald J. Mares, executive director of Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, stated in a press release.

Job losses have occurred in professional and business services, trade, transportation, utilities, construction, manufacturing, financial activities, and leisure and hospitality. Government gained 10,000 positions, education and health services grew by 8,900, and natural resources and mining added 3,300. JAS

Homeless win one

The debate over homeless camps seems to have gone from red-hot to simmering.

Following reports that the city-sponsored nonprofit Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful was throwing away the property of homeless people in regular clean-ups of public lands, tempers erupted. Homeless activists threatened to sue the city for violating the rights of the transients.

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs police mentioned asking City Council to pass a law making it illegal to store personal items on public property, which would protect clean-up crews. However, police Cmdr. Kurt Pillard now says there are no plans to ask Council to change the law. JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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