Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Helen Collins' ethics hearing opens

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2016 at 1:21 PM

click to enlarge With a view of the city as a backdrop, Boyd Boland took up the case of Helen Collins' alleged ethics violations from a small room in a downtown office building. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • With a view of the city as a backdrop, Boyd Boland took up the case of Helen Collins' alleged ethics violations from a small room in a downtown office building.

The city of Colorado Springs began its case alleging ethics violations against City Councilor Helen Collins Tuesday morning in a cramped room on the 11th floor of the Wells Fargo Bank Building, 90 S. Cascade Ave.

Presiding was retired federal magistrate Boyd Boland, who drew a tongue-lashing from anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce when he ordered all witnesses sequestered. Bruce, who's serving as Collins' "technical advisor," at first resisted but left the room. He later reappeared demanding to know when he'd be called, saying he was being made "a prisoner for three days," the duration of the hearing. 

He peacefully retreated after the city's Independent Ethics Commission lawyer, William Wright, told him he expected to call Bruce to testify lateTuesday morning or early afternoon.

Collins is being accused of tolerating waste, fraud and abuse and for the appearance of impropriety for accepting a deed to one of Bruce's properties in December 2014 and then handing him the money from the subsequent sale. The City Attorney's Office alleges Collins knew the city had a $7,500 judgment against Bruce in an unrelated case that it was unable to collect because it filed a lien after the land transferred to Collins. Collins held the property for less than 24 hours.

In support of that, Wright called a clerk from the City Attorney's Office, who testified she emailed the office's quarterly legal report on Nov. 24, 2014, to all Council members, including Collins. Presumably, the report included the city's judgment. The clerk was not asked if she had any independent knowledge of whether Collins actually read the report and knew of the judgment before she enabled Bruce to sell the property before the city attached a lien based on the judgment. (She's since claimed she did not know about it.) The city attorney alleges Collins cost the city the judgment by helping Bruce avoid a lien. Bruce has since paid the judgment to the city.

Taking it all in was City Councilor Bill Murray's wife, Susan, seen on the left taking notes during testimony:
click to enlarge Susan Murray, wife of Councilor Bill Murray, attends the ethics hearing. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Susan Murray, wife of Councilor Bill Murray, attends the ethics hearing.

Mrs. Murray said, when asked, that she would say "nothing" about the hearing to Murray. But Bruce called her presence inappropriate. "It stinks," he said.

We've asked Councilor Murray about his wife being there and will update if and when we hear back from him.

No Council members attended the hearing. After Collins requested a hearing on the charges, Council members elected to put the matter before a hearing officer, although they could have heard the case themselves but chose not to.

Here's a link to 32 points of contention Collins filed at the beginning of the hearing.

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