Friday, September 13, 2013

SunShare sued by former 'employer/volunteer'

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge David Amster-Olszewski faces a lawsuit. - BRYAN OLLER
  • Bryan Oller
  • David Amster-Olszewski faces a lawsuit.
Nicholas Hellbusch, who says he worked for Sunshare in 2011 and now works for the City Auditor's Office, has filed suit seeking payment of a salary he says he was promised along with a percentage of profits from the company.

It's unknown whether the lawsuit will have an impact on Colorado Springs Utilities' selection of developers for the city's program that will award contracts to build 2 megawatts of community solar gardens. That decision is expected in early October.

Filed Sept. 6, four days before a mandatory meeting of solar garden developers for bidding purposes, alleges that SunShare owner David Amster-Olszewski hired Hellbusch in June 2011, agreeing to pay him $60,000 a year and 15 percent to 30 percent of the profits from Sunshare's first half-megawatt project built on Venetucci Farm.

He was paid small amounts, totaling $3,787 over a five-month period. Hellbusch claims he conducted a feasibility study of SunShare, created financial models, did tax research, sales and web content development, and used his own computer to do so.

After the project was completed, Amster-Olszewski "thanked him for 'volunteering,'" the lawsuit says.

Hellbusch also contends a SunShare intern later wiped his computer clean. When he tried to retrieve the computer, he claims in the lawsuit, Amster-Olszewski called police "to prevent the Plaintiff from collecting his computer and pay." After the incident, the lawsuit states, Amster-Olszewski agreed to pay him but never did.

Besides suffering a financial setback by working at lower compensation than promised by SunShare, Hellbusch's lawsuit states he suspended work on a master's degree and also suffered "mental suffering."

"Plaintiff had many medical appointments, including doctor visits and and MRI, and massage therapy to treat the stress related pain," the lawsuit states. "Because of the stress releated medical issues, Plaintiff was not hired at one business after leaving Defendants' employment."

That may be true, but Hellbusch did land a job with Colorado Springs City Auditor's Office.

"Nick Hellbush works in my office as an Auditor I," Auditor Denny Nester says via e-mail. "He worked as a temp from February 2012 until April 2012 when he was offered his current position."

Nester's office issued a report on the solar garden program that emphasized ratepayer subsidies and might have played a role in the newly elected City Council repealing a 10-megawatt solar garden program adopted on April 9 by the previous Council.

However, Nester contends Hellbusch played no role in that report.

"Nick was intentionally not allowed to do work on the solar garden program," he writes. "Initially we thought we would interview him, but I do not think we did that as our audit was of the program—not SunShare."

Qualification requirements, as stated in Springs Utilities' request for proposals, doesn't address whether pending litigation could disqualify a bidder.

Amster-Olszewski didn't respond to e-mails seeking comment and is due to file an answer to the lawsuit later this month. Besides him and Sunshare, the intern also is named in the action.

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