Saturday, December 29, 2018

Give! to local charities through Dec. 31

Posted By on Sat, Dec 29, 2018 at 6:00 AM


The Indy Give! campaign is in its 10th year and has a lofty goal: raising $1.8 million for 93 local organizations that make the Pikes Peak Region a great place to live.

We know, you've been a little busy. It's easy to get caught up in the holiday rush.  But why not take a few minutes and use our easy platform to give back to your community. Here's the cool part: Give! allows to you donate to multiple organizations at once, ALL your money goes to the charities of your choice, and since many charities have matching grants, your dollars go even further.
Here's a message from  Give! Executive Director Barb Van Hoy:

More Donations Needed to Reach 2018 Give! Campaign Goal
93 local organizations featured in community-wide giving effort ending midnight Dec. 31st

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO — With just four days left in 2018, the Give! Campaign is appealing to the Pikes Peak region with their “Live Here Give Here” message to support 93 worthy nonprofits. Last year Give! raised $1.5 million for local nonprofits. This year’s ambitious goal is $1.8 million. We’re asking our community to step up and help us change lives by supporting these important causes

In its 10th year, Give! is raising awareness and funds for a diverse variety of local causes, from children and families, to the arts, animals, the great outdoors, veterans and more.

It’s really easy to give, and we make it fun, too. Just go to, where you’ll likely find some of your favorite nonprofits, as well as new ones you didn’t know were here. Many nonprofits have matching challenge grants that will double your donation. You can choose how much and to which groups you want to donate, and check out each group’s progress on the leaderboards. Donors help nonprofits compete for cash prizes and receive thank-you rewards from local businesses including Bristol Brewing Company, The Mining Exchange, La’au’s Taco Shop, Axe and the Oak, and many others. This year’s campaign kicked off on November 1 and ends at midnight December 31, 2018.

Give! is a year-end philanthropic initiative created to encourage everyone in the Pikes Peak Region to give back and get involved with local nonprofits, with a particular emphasis on catalyzing philanthropy from those 36 and younger. Give! is the nonprofit civic arm of the Colorado Publishing House and receives support from the Colorado Springs Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal and the Pikes Peak Bulletin. For more information, please visit
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Thursday, December 27, 2018

What the government shutdown means for federal workers in Colorado

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2018 at 1:16 PM

Rocky Mountain National Park will remain open without visitor services. - COURTESY OF NATIONAL PARK SERVICE/JIM ECKLUND
  • Courtesy of National Park Service/Jim Ecklund
  • Rocky Mountain National Park will remain open without visitor services.
December 26 was the first day that many of Colorado's 53,200 civilian federal workers began to feel the effects of a government shutdown, triggered Dec. 22 by President Donald Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Some workers have been placed on unpaid leave, while others whose services are deemed essential will be required to work without pay until lawmakers agree on legislation to fund the government. Not all federal workers are affected — the Departments of Energy, Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education all received funding appropriations for 2019.

However, nine of 15 federal departments and dozens of agencies are closed, according to a statement from Democratic members of the Senate Appropriations Committee predicting the effects of a shutdown. They projected that more than 420,000 people would work without pay through the shutdown, and that more than 380,000 would be placed on leave.

So what's happening to federal workers in Colorado? Thousands have been affected, though it's difficult to determine exactly how many, and by how much.

There are approximately 53,200 civilian federal workers in Colorado, according to Bill Thoennes, spokesperson for the state's Department of Labor and Employment. While the department couldn't break down that number further, data from Governing Magazine shows most work for the U.S. Postal Service (which is still functioning normally), Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Air Force, Army, and Department of Agriculture.

Colorado is likely to feel the effects of the shutdown most acutely through the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture.

According to that 2017 data, 6,524 Colorado residents work for the Department of the Interior (which includes the National Park Service), and 3,697 residents work for the Department of Agriculture (which includes the National Forest Service). Democratic lawmakers predicted around 80 percent of employees at the Park Service and Forest Service would be furloughed.

One-third of Colorado's 1,390 Department of Transportation workers, 86 percent of its 1,419 Department of Commerce workers, and 95 percent of its 343 Department of Housing and Urban Development workers were projected to be furloughed.

Lawmakers also predicted up to 88 percent of workers at the Department of Homeland Security, including TSA employees and Customs and Border Protection agents, would be forced to work without pay. Colorado has 682 of these workers, according to Governing Magazine.

Thoennes recommends federal workers affected by the shutdown file an unemployment claim with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. You can do that online by visiting and clicking on "File A Claim."

Not a federal worker? If you were planning an outdoor excursion in the next couple of weeks, you may also feel the effects of short-staffed national parks.

Rocky Mountain National Park announced it would remain accessible to pedestrians and bicycles during the shutdown, but would close several gates to vehicular traffic due to snowfall Dec. 22 and did not know whether these roads would reopen before the shutdown ended. The park advises visitors to use "extreme caution," "as park personnel will not be available to provide guidance or assistance" and "emergency services will be limited."

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will remain open, but "the visitor center and entrance station will remain closed and no visitor services will be available." Parking lots may also be closed and "hazardous or dangerous conditions may exist" due to the lack of snow removal.

The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument will be closed for the duration of the shutdown.

You can view a list of national parks and monuments online here, though the National Park Service cautions that the website may not reflect current information. Click on each park for more information. Some parks have announced closures or limited services.
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Friday, December 21, 2018

Hickenlooper pardons Rev. Promise Lee for murder

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 8:44 PM

The Rev. Promise Lee has been pardoned for second-degree murder. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • The Rev. Promise Lee has been pardoned for second-degree murder.
In the Dec. 26 issue of the Independent, we tell the story of a man's transformation. Here's the snapshot:

Forty-four years ago, when he was just 16, Promise Lee shot and killed 20-year-old Fort Carson soldier Daniel Hocking in a drug deal gone bad.

Since then, Lee, now 60, has become a pastor and the leader of his own church, Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center. He has led efforts to clean up his neighborhood and improve his world. He has spent countless hours mentoring troubled boys in the hopes of helping them avoid his mistakes.

He has, in other words, sought redemption. And this year, for the second time, he asked a Colorado governor to pardon him for his crime.

Pardons for murder are incredibly rare, and Promise faced a big challenge: Hocking's surviving family has not forgiven him and say he has not tried to contact them. (He claims he has.)
Nevertheless, on Dec. 21, Gov. John Hickenlooper granted Promise his pardon — with the condition that he still cannot possess firearms.  He writes in part:

This is an extremely serious crime, and I have not made this decision lightly. The family affected by your actions has suffered considerably over the years. If it were within my power to remove their pain today I would.

I made this decision because of the work you have done to transform your community. In particular, you have focused on youth growing up in difficult circumstances and helped them avoid the path you took as an adolescent. I believe your work can, and possibly has, saved lives. I grant this pardon in large part to enable you to access more people who can benefit from your work and, hopefully, transform their lives as you have.

You wrote in your letter that after serving your sentence, you became driven to make amends for the harm you had done. You have demonstrated that you made good on that commitment.

I hope this pardon will create additional opportunities for you. It is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will require hard work and dedication.

By continuing down this path, you will improve not only your life, but also the loves of your family and community members. Others who have experienced circumstances similar to yours will look to you for guidance and inspiration. Show them how it's done.
The Independent sent a message to the Hockings after the pardon to ensure they knew about it, and to pass along the governor's letter.

We also emailed Promise Lee for his response, and he sent along the following.

As a man of faith, I am, first and foremost, thankful to God for using my journey as a powerful demonstration of grace, mercy, redemption, and forgiveness.

I want to especially thank Governor Hickenlooper for his courage. There were many good people involved in the process, but it took audacious leadership from the top to grant this historic pardon.
I’m not sure the weight on my shoulders feels any lighter. I’m not sure it’s supposed to. More than anything, I feel humbled. This doesn’t erase the foolish decisions of my youth, but it recognizes the better man I’ve become.

I can never bring the life back that I took, which means my work will never be done. I will continue to dedicate my life to improving safety, health, education, and access to opportunity in my community. I will continue to be an agent of positive change.

These are the words I can offer right now to try to convey my gratitude for this Pardon. But, truly, I’ll spend the rest of my life showing appreciation through my work in the community helping others.
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Thursday, December 20, 2018

5 mental health tips for the holidays

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2018 at 5:43 PM

Contrary to one myth that's been perpetuated in mainstream media, suicides don't increase around the holidays. In fact, November and December have the lowest monthly average suicide rates, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

But the holidays can come with unique mental health challenges.

"I think it’s reconnecting with family members when there’s unresolved issues," says Lori Jarvis-Steinwert, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Colorado Springs. "I think it’s just that whole notion of going home, wherever home is. And I think it’s also, we’ve created expectations around the holidays as this joyous time of year. And so if your life isn’t particularly joyous, for whatever reason...things that you might be coping with OK on a day-to-day basis, it’s just everything’s in stark relief during the holidays."

The Indy asked locally based mental health advocates and providers for advice on maintaining mental health this holiday season, and recommendations on where to get help. Here's what they had to say:

1. Try not to isolate yourself. It helps to spend time with healthy, supportive people — who may or may not be your relatives — during the holidays, says Charlton Clarke, director of health care services at AspenPointe. If you can't or don't want to be around others, Jarvis-Steinwert suggests scheduling time to do something you enjoy, like going to the movies.

2. Now's not the time to take a break from therapy, even if it seems like a good idea, Clarke says. "This is a time when you should really continue to engage with therapy, if that’s what you’re doing, or if people have never thought about therapy and they’re feeling depressed and the holidays are stirring that up, this is the perfect time to actually begin to engage with mental health services." (See a list of resources below.)

3. If your therapist will be out of town, make a backup plan, says Brenna Sturgeon, a licensed professional counselor and level 2 certified addiction counselor at Peak Vista Community Health Centers. That could include checking whether they have someone else on call you can reach, or asking them to recommend other mental health resources.

4. Know the numbers. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text "TALK" to 38255 to connect with Colorado Crisis Services' trained counselors for free, 24/7. TESSA of Colorado Springs has a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and their children: 719-633-3819.

5.  In crisis? Visit a walk-in center. AspenPointe operates two walk-in crisis centers for Colorado Crisis Services. One, at 115 S. Parkside Drive, is open 24/7. (Locations and hours below.) "That’s probably the best first step, is if someone feels like they’re in crisis and they don’t know what to do, to go to one of those places to try to start the process," Clarke says.

Resources around town (in alphabetical order):

AspenPointe offers counseling, therapy, medication services and substance use treatment at locations around Colorado Springs. Call (719) 572-6100 for more information.

AspenPointe walk-in crisis centers:

115 S. Parkside Dr. (Open 24/7)

6071 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 135 (Open 7 a.m.-11 a.m., 7 days a week)

Brain and Body Integration, located at 1115 Elkton Dr. #300, offers counseling, biofeedback treatment and medication management. Call (719) 357-6471 for more information.

Insight Services, located at 212 E. Monument St., offers individual and group therapy (including yoga therapy) and substance use treatment on a sliding fee schedule. Call 719-447-0370 for more information.

NAMI Colorado Springs, located at 510 E. Willamette Ave., offers free support groups and classes for those experiencing mental illness and their loved ones. Call (719) 473-8477 for more information.

NAMI Colorado Springs support groups (do not meet Dec. 24-25 or Dec. 31-Jan. 1):

The non-faith-based Connection Support Group meets Tuesdays from 7-8:30 p.m. on the second floor of First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave. A group for family members of those living with mental illness meets across the hall.

Thrive Connection Support Group, a faith-based group, meets on second and fourth Mondays from 6:30-8 p.m. at Woodmen Valley Chapel, 290 E. Woodmen Road, Room 115. A faith-based support group for family members meets in Room 114.

Peak Vista Community Health Centers offers counseling, therapy, psychological exams and psychiatric support at locations around Colorado Springs. Call 719-632-5700 for more information.

Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care, located at 2550 Tenderfoot Hill Street, offers grief support groups for both adults and children, and individual grief counseling for individuals. Call 719-633-3400 anytime for more information or to speak to a grief counselor.

TESSA of Colorado Springs, located at 435 Gold Pass Heights, provides emergency shelter, food, case management, counseling and victim advocacy for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and their children. Call 719-633-1462 for more information or 719-633-3819 for the 24-hour SafeLine.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Shooting at Citadel Mall injures three, mall has now reopened

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2018 at 12:47 PM

The Citadel Mall was the scene of a shooting about 2 p.m. on Dec. 18. It has since reopened. - EL PASO COUNTY ASSESSOR'S OFFICE
  • El Paso County Assessor's Office
  • The Citadel Mall was the scene of a shooting about 2 p.m. on Dec. 18. It has since reopened.

The Citadel Mall has reopened following a Dec. 18 shooting and police have released the following update on the incident:

On December 19, 2018, at approximately 2:48 AM, a juvenile male arrived at a local hospital with a gunshot wound. Colorado Springs Police Department officers responded to the hospital and learned that the victim was shot while standing outside of the Citadel Mall on December 18, 2018, at approximately 1:45 PM. The victim was treated and released.

The Colorado Springs Police Department’s Violent Crimes Section continues their active investigation identifying responsibility for this act of violence. Detectives have identified three gunshot victims, two adults and one juvenile. There is one additional juvenile female who was not hit by gunfire, but is a victim in this investigation.

Detectives will be charging Attempted First Degree Murder – Four Counts, a Class 2 Felony, First Degree Assault – Two Counts, a Class 3 Felony, as the investigation moves forward. Please follow Twitter for updates, as appropriate.

——- ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 18, 5:28 P.M.———
If you were thinking of wrapping up your Christmas shopping after work today at the Citadel Mall, forget it. It's closed following a shooting that left two people seriously injured but not with life threatening injuries.

The Colorado Springs Police Department, which responded to the shooting about 2 p.m., sent a tweet at about 3:45 saying, "The Citadel Mall has decided to stay closed. They will reopen tomorrow morning at 9:00AM. CSPD will be clearing the scene within the hour. CSPD and Mall Management appreciates our community and your patience."

KOAA News 5 reported from the scene that apparently two men got into a yelling match with people in a red car, who shot them. The driver of the red car then drove away.

CSPD just put out this statement: 
On December 18, 2018, at approximately 1:45 PM, officers with the Colorado Springs Police Department responded to the Citadel Mall on a reported shooting. Upon arrival, officers located two victims, one outside and one inside the mall, with what appeared to be gunshot wounds. Both individuals were transported to a local hospital. The victims were adult males and are in serious and stable condition.

The Colorado Springs Police Department’s Violent Crimes Section responded to the scene and assumed responsibility for this investigation. Preliminary information reveals a verbal argument started outside the mall on the south side. Multiple shots were fired from a vehicle striking two individuals. This continues to be an active investigation. Follow Twitter for updates, as appropriate.
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Police Chief Pete Carey is next undersheriff, sources say

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2018 at 11:57 AM


Here's a memo that went out on Dec. 19 from Sheriff Bill Elder:


———————-ORIGINAL POST 11:57 A.M. WEDNESDAY, DEC. 19, 2018————-

Carey: From police department to sheriff's office. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Carey: From police department to sheriff's office.
For months, rumors have floated that Sheriff Bill Elder would name Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey as undersheriff after Elder was re-elected Nov. 6.

Elder's office  has refused to confirm this, but Elder told command personnel on Dec. 14 that Carey will become his second-in-command in February upon the retirement of Undersheriff Joe Breister, sources tell the Independent.

Asked about that on Dec. 17, Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby tells the Indy in an email, "There was no such meeting on Friday and I cannot confirm. Your source is incorrect."

Now, KKTV reports Breister has submitted his retirement papers, effective in March, and Carey will take office on Feb. 11, days after his Feb. 1 retirement as police chief.
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Colorado Springs lands $4.6-million FEMA grant

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2018 at 11:57 AM

Douglas Creek is one of two projects that will be completed using money from FEMA. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Douglas Creek is one of two projects that will be completed using money from FEMA.
The city's neglected stormwater system got a $4.6 million infusion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for two creek projects, the city and FEMA announced Dec. 19.

FEMA’s grant represents 75 percent of the projects' cost, with the city covering the balance, and is the equivalent of about a quarter of the money the city raises annually through stormwater fees charged to residents and businesses.

The first grant, for $2,612,325, will fund a bank stabilization project along a 1,100-foot stretch of Douglas Creek that eroded during 2013 and 2015 flood events and continues to erode with normal flow events, FEMA said in a release. The total cost will be $3,483,100.

From the release:
The proposed project is located on the creek between its confluence with Monument Creek and Interstate 25, just south of Garden of the Gods Road. Upon completion, this stretch of Douglas Creek will be designed to withstand a 100-year flood event. It will function as a natural stream corridor, build resilience in future events by restoring floodplain function, and will help downstream by reducing sediment in the Fountain Creek watershed.

The second grant, for $2,005,125, will fund restoration and stabilization along a 1,750 foot section of Pine Creek that's seen signification erosion and bank failure since the 2013 flood. The total cost is $2,673,500.

This project will use natural channel construction to reconnect with the natural floodplain and will employ an upstream detention pond to be constructed separately by the city. It, too, will reduce sediment downstream.

Funding is provided through FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program.
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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Texas ruling on Affordable Care Act won't affect your coverage, officials say

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 2:02 PM

According to a federal judge in Texas, the Affordable Care Act should go.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor of Fort Worth delivered a victory to conservatives Dec. 14, ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, and that the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act were "inseverable" and therefore "invalid." The ruling ended (for now) a months-long court battle between a group of Republican-led states who had sued the United States and a group of intervening Democrat-led states.

Colorado wasn't involved in the lawsuit. But state officials want residents to know that this decision won't affect them anytime soon.

"This decision will now be part of a long, drawn-out legal process, as it will be appealed and likely work its way to the U.S. Supreme Court," reads a statement from the Colorado Division of Insurance. "And the Trump administration is assuring the country that the ACA will remain in force during the appeals process."

(Those assurances came separately from the president's tweet.)

State officials also sought to reassure Coloradans with pre-existing conditions.

“I said it in June when this case first bubbled up, and I’ll say it again: Guaranteed health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions is enshrined in Colorado law,”  interim Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway is quoted in the statement. “The Division of Insurance will continue to enforce Colorado law and maintain this important protection for our citizens."

Open enrollment for people who buy individual health insurance plans ends Jan. 15. Visit Connect for Health Colorado for more information and to enroll.

While many Republicans, including Colorado's Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Doug Lamborn, remained silent on the ruling, Democrats were quick to make their disapproval known. Sen. Michael Bennet issued the following statement Dec. 15:

“For years, Republicans have tried to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. After trying and failing over 70 times to repeal the bill without offering a replacement, Republicans added a provision to last year's disastrous tax bill to sabotage the individual mandate, providing the argument used in the Texas court's ruling.

“The ACA is not perfect, but it has provided health care coverage to millions of Coloradans and Americans with preexisting conditions and coverage for essential health benefits. Republicans should abandon their efforts to attack the ACA and instead work with Democrats to fix its flaws, so that we can provide quality, affordable health care coverage to every American.”

And the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a nonpartisan membership-based advocacy organization, issued a forceful rebuke.

“This unprecedented attack and irresponsible Republican lawsuit is the biggest threat for consumers in the Trump Administration’s relentless efforts to sabotage the ACA,” Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement, is quoted in the organization's statement. “This court case could strip more than 600,000 Coloradans of the health coverage they need, throw the insurance market into chaos, and leave our state budget in crisis."
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Christmas could land you in the hospital, study finds

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 1:54 PM

My brother ended up in the emergency room after slipping on wrapping paper. - COURTESY OF ANITA MILLER
  • Courtesy of Anita Miller
  • My brother ended up in the emergency room after slipping on wrapping paper.

About seven years ago, in the midst of Christmas cheer, my 6-year-old brother slipped on wrapping paper and hit his head on the coffee table. The deep gash wasn't serious, but it did require stitches — and evaporated everyone's holiday spirit. (To my now-teenaged little bro: Sorry, this photo was too good not to use.)

When my parents took my brother to Memorial Hospital North on Christmas Day, they were shocked by how busy it was.

They shouldn't have been surprised. Turns out, a lot of people fall victim to Christmas-related injuries, according to a forthcoming study in Advances in Integrative Medicine.

Researchers analyzed 2007-2016 data on product-related injuries from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a probability sample of U.S. hospitals with emergency services.

Over those nine years, emergency departments treated more than 173,000 injuries related to Christmas trees, decorations, presents and Santa impersonators.

More than 80,000 people were injured by "non-electrical decorations," and 36,000 people were injured by "electrical decorations."

Injuries related to Christmas trees, tree stands/supports and tree lights amounted to nearly 55,000. (In case you're wondering, people who went to the emergency room for a tree-related injury were eight times more likely to have been hurt by an artificial tree than by a real one.)

About 2,300 injuries came from Christmas presents. Sadly, 277 children were injured by Santa impersonators.

Almost all people who went to the ER for Christmas-related injuries were Caucasian, the study found. Injuries were most common among children, adults between the ages of 30 and 60, and seniors 70 and older.

Not sure if any of this would have made my brother feel better, but hey, now he's an internet celebrity.
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Drew Rankin, former Springs Utilities official, indicted in Derby-gate

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 1:53 PM

  • Thomas Kelley/
Drew Rankin is in a bind.

The former Colorado Springs Utilities energy generation manager who was an early backer of the Neumann Systems Group's pollution control equipment installed at Drake Power Plant downtown has been indicted with others in a scheme involving spending on lavish trips.

Rankin is the CEO of Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Corp. where he's worked since leaving here in 2010.

He and others were indicted in November by federal prosecutors on charges of misuse of federal funds and conspiracy in planning and carrying out ratepayer-funded trips to the Kentucky Derby, which we reported in a blog post here last year.

Here's what the Norwich Bulletin reported on Nov. 8:
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the first indictment alleges that Rankin, Sullivan, Bilda, DeMuzzio and Pryor planned, organized and directed lavish trips outside of Connecticut, including trips to the Kentucky Derby in 2015 and 2016, and to the luxurious Greenbrier golf resort in West Virginia in 2015. These trips did not relate to CMEEC business or CMEEC member business, but were intended to personally benefit, compensate and reward the co-conspirators, their family members, friends and associates, federal officials allege. Costs for the trips, which totaled more than $800,000, included travel expenses, private chartered airfare, first-class hotel accommodations, meals, tickets to sporting events, golf fees, souvenirs and gifts.
Here's the Hartford Courant's version:
The managers of a small, eastern Connecticut electric utility cooperative say one of their core values is to “Learn from mistakes.” There could be a lot of learning opportunity in coming months at the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative.

The U.S. Attorney’s office disclosed Thursday that five top officers of the coop board of directors have been indicted for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from members and rate payers and spending the money on posh Kentucky Derby junkets and lavish golf outings for themselves, their families and their friends.
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Friday, December 14, 2018

Fountain, Security, Widefield residents have higher-than-normal blood levels of toxic PFASs, study finds

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2018 at 10:03 PM

Residents south of Colorado Springs whose drinking water supply was contaminated with toxic PFASs have high levels of the chemicals in their blood, according to initial results from a study from the Colorado School of Public Health and Colorado School of Mines.

Researchers collected 220 blood samples from people who lived in the Fountain, Security and Widefield communities for at least three years before August 2015. While drinking water in those water systems is now being treated for PFASs, used in Air Force firefighting chemicals, some residents were exposed to the toxic compounds for years before government agencies recognized their potential dangers.

(Wondering why we are now referring to the chemicals as PFASs, though we referred to them as PFCs in other stories? Read this from the Environmental Protection Agency.)

Little is known about the health effects of PFASs in humans. However, studies on laboratory animals have shown that high concentrations of certain chemicals can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, immunological effects and tumors, according to the EPA. The most consistent finding among human studies is increased cholesterol, with more limited findings related to cancer, thyroid hormone effects, infant birth weights and adverse effects on the immune system.

The initial results of the study revealed that study participants had blood levels of one toxic compound, PFHxS, that were about 10 times as high as U.S. population reference levels. Levels of this chemical were higher than those for residents in other communities that were highly exposed to PFASs.

Study participants had about twice as much PFOS, another chemical in the PFASs group, as the general population. Previous studies have linked this chemical to thyroid hormone effects in humans.

For study participants, levels of the chemical PFOA — which human studies have linked to cancer — were 40 to 70 percent higher than U.S. levels.

To understand what residents may have been exposed to before water suppliers changed sources or added treatment systems in 2015, researchers also measured PFASs in the untreated wells that communities used prior to that. Total PFASs in the untreated wells ranged from 18 to 2300 ppt.

The Environmental Protection Agency's current acceptable standard for drinking water is 70 ppt, though a June study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry indicated safe levels could be as low as 12 ppt.

Researchers plan to present more results in the first half of 2019, and will begin recruiting more participants for blood sampling in April.

The full presentation from the Colorado School of Public Health and Colorado School of Mines is available on the study website and embedded below.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

19 Colorado Springs agencies and businesses receive bomb threats

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 4:23 PM

The Indy, like 18 other offices in Colorado Springs, received a bomb threat on Dec. 13. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The Indy, like 18 other offices in Colorado Springs, received a bomb threat on Dec. 13.
The Independent was among 19 businesses, schools and government buildings that received a bomb threat today, Dec. 13. They appear to be bogus and possibly part of a nationwide rash of bomb threats, the Colorado Springs Police Department says. The CSPD issued this notice:

Large numbers of bomb threats are being reported at news outlets, government buildings, banks, libraries, and other businesses across the United States.

The Colorado Springs Police Department started receiving threats at 11:20AM on December 13, 2018. CSPD has worked closely with schools and employees at the impacted locations to ensure their safety. Each report received in Colorado Springs is taken seriously and investigated appropriately. At the time of this writing, our Communications Center has received 19 separate threats. No schools or businesses have reduced their schedules due to these threats.
Two police officers responded to the Indy building at 235 S. Nevada Ave. and spent an hour searching the premises at about 11:15 a.m. The threat was delivered via email and sought an amount of money in bitcoin. About eight threats had been made as of that time.

Amy Sweet, publisher of the Indy and some of its sister publications, says, "Clearly, this was a poorly executed attempt to scare and intimidate businesses. In today's political climate, the Indy took the threat seriously. We're pleased with fast response from CSPD and we plan to continue to do what we do best — provide locally produced journalism that is vital to Colorado Springs."
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New campaign finance rules adopted in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 2:13 PM

City Council and mayoral candidates will have to follow new campaign finance rules in 2019. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • City Council and mayoral candidates will have to follow new campaign finance rules in 2019.

Those running for city offices in Colorado Springs in the April 2 election will have new rules to follow.

City Council voted 5-2 on Dec. 11 to make changes in the city's campaign finance code. Councilors Andy Pico and Tom Strand opposed the measure, and Councilors Bill Murray and Merv Bennett were absent for the vote.

Here's a description of the changes from our previous report on the measure:
• Any campaign piece [must] state who paid for it, including ads in magazines, and on billboards, large campaign signs, direct mailings, handbills, internet-based advertising and broadcast ads on radio, television and other technologies. Disclosure [will] not be required on yard signs, pens, lapel pins or bumper stickers. It [won't] apply to individuals who don’t form committees. The [previous] ordinance [required] the disclosure only in 
newspaper ads.

The requirement [will] allow voters to consult campaign finance reports to identify which group or individuals funded which campaign tools. Even dark money groups are required to file campaign finance reports, although they don’t have to list individual donors. Frequently, dark money groups list one donation from their own political action committee. For example, in one 2017 filing, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs was listed as the sole donor, of $50,000, to the HBA Political Action Committee.

• More precise disclosure of how money is spent [is now required]. Under the [past] ordinance, candidates [could] list an expense for a campaign consultant without detailing what’s covered. During the 2017 election, for example, one candidate listed $8,000 was spent on “grassroots” campaigning. [The new] measure [requires] candidates and campaign committees in the upcoming April 2 city election to report “the source and purpose” of each expenditure.

But how much detail is required is sort of fuzzy and led Strand and Pico to oppose the measure, along with Mayor John Suthers.
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El Paso County wins $8,922 in court expenses, but fails to recover more

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 1:03 PM

Sheriff Bill Elder's hotel bill and those of others were denied as a legitimate expense in a recent federal lawsuit. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Sheriff Bill Elder's hotel bill and those of others were denied as a legitimate expense in a recent federal lawsuit.
El Paso County took the unusual step on Dec. 11 of announcing to the world in a news release that it was awarded costs in a lawsuit in which it prevailed over former sheriff's Sgt. John Huntz.

Huntz had alleged he was retaliated against with a job change and termination because his wife, Tiffany, had claimed she was sexually harassed by a commander.

After a five-day trial in August, the jury sided with Sheriff Bill Elder, meaning the county won and Huntz lost.

But the county doesn't mention in the release that it's quite common for costs such as witness fees, deposition fees and court filing fees to be automatically awarded to the prevailing party, at the expense of the losing party.

In this case, the county was awarded $8,922 for those expenses.

The county also failed to state in the news release that it actually had sought reimbursement for $18,565 in expenses, most of which was denied by the court clerk.

Besides seeking $1,912 in witness fees and $8,618 in costs associated with taking depositions, the county also sought $8,618 for travel expenses. That travel included $7,938 in hotel rooms for two attorneys, a paralegal and Elder, who testified one day but attended all five days of the trial, at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver in downtown Denver.

That's $259 per night for the five-day trial, although the case wrapped up on Friday, so it's unclear why a fifth night of lodging would be required. In any event, the county also sought reimbursement of $396.75 for each of those four people for the week, along with about $250 in mileage costs for all four and another $230 for each of the four for parking.

The court clerk disallowed all of the travel except for $85 for witness fee, parking and mileage for Elder, noting on the county's reimbursement request, "The Clerk declines to award defense counsel and staff's travel expenses for trial. As this is a Title VII employment discrimination suit — i.e., under federal question jurisdiction — ... attorney travel expenses are not awardable."

The county also tried to persuade the court to reimburse $1,600 for an expert witness fee, but the court clerk disallowed it, saying, "This is an expert witness fee, not awardable" under federal law.

In the release, Board of El Paso County Commissioners President Darryl Glenn, who's a lawyer, praised the court. “We’re very happy that the court ruled in favor of us in this matter," he said, though, as previously noted, the court did not rule in the county's favor on all the expenses for which it sought reimbursement.

Glenn also called the lawsuit "frivolous," although that label is a term of art in the legal world, and the Huntz lawsuit was not frivolous. A judge saw fit to allow the case to proceed to a jury trial, which makes it non-frivolous.

Without disclosing the nearly $10,000 in expenses denied by the court, County Attorney Amy Folsom said in the release, "We are entitled to all of these costs. The important thing to note is that the reimbursement will come out of the pocket of John Huntz himself."

True enough.

Huntz, through his attorney Ian Kalmanowitz, declined to comment as did Kalmanowitz.

Huntz had alleged he was transferred from his training officer post to night shift as payback after his wife reported being sexually harassed by a commander. His wife's claim was dismissed by a judge in September 2017. John Huntz eventually was fired after being on leave for eight months.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tammy Terwelp to leave KRCC, lead Aspen Public Radio

Posted By on Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 2:55 PM

Tammy Terwelp, KRCC's general manager, will leave in January. - COURTESY KRCC
  • Courtesy KRCC
  • Tammy Terwelp, KRCC's general manager, will leave in January.

Tammy Terwelp, the general manager at Colorado College's 91.5 KRCC-FM, will leave for the mountains early next year.

"Some news to share... I will be heading to Aspen Public Radio as their new Executive Director effective January 28th," Terwelp posted on LinkedIn Dec. 10. "I am really excited to be doing what I love (public radio) in the heart of the most beautiful place on earth."

A job posting for Terwelp's current position is online. Andrea Chalfin, KRCC's managing editor, said Terwelp will remain at the station until January.

Terwelp was hired
as KRCC's general manager in fall of 2015. Before that, she served as director of content and programming for Pittsburg's 90.5 WESA, and in multiple roles at Chicago Public Media. She has more than two decades of experience in public broadcasting.

Her tenure at KRCC was marked by a changing media landscape. Terwelp canceled the award-winning local series "Wish We Were Here" in June 2016. She told the Indy at the time that her goal was to modernize the station, which she did by striking "unnecessary" line items from the budget, updating equipment and evaluating program scheduling. Nevertheless, she said canceling the show was the "worst day of my career."

In spring 2017, Colorado Public Radio moved into the Springs, meaning that KRCC had to work harder to differentiate itself.

But KRCC saw success under Terwelp. The station is raising funds to move into a larger building downtown with more community space, and won national recognition. Among the accolades: Wish We Were Here earned an Edward R. Murrow Award in the News Documentary category, reporter Dana Cronin got a regional Mark of Excellence Award from the Society for Professional Journalists for her feature on 14ers, and Jake Brownell won Best Feature Story from the Associated Press Television and Radio Association for a gun violence-related piece. In 2018, the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Colorado Society for Professional Journalists recognized then-KRCC reporter Bente Birkeland as Journalist of the Year "for her groundbreaking work covering the #MeToo movement and a culture of sexual harassment at Colorado’s capitol."

In a Dec. 5 interview with Aspen Public Radio reporter Alycin Bektesh, Terwelp said the following about her time at KRCC:

"Here at KRCC, I was coming into a situation that needed some attention...we had a mixed format here. With a city this size and this market, that's just not optimal for performance. It's been proven over and over with the metro market that we have, especially with competition with Colorado Public Radio ... I really wanted to change the focus to be an all-news station serving Southern Colorado. So that was just, it was a lot of work, if you can imagine, but it's been so rewarding — the increase in our listenership and the increase in our membership, and to talk to members who say, 'Thank you for covering that story. No one else was doing this.'"

Jane Turnis, vice president for communications at Colorado College, told the Indy:

Under Tammy’s leadership, 91.5 KRCC has grown tremendously, developing strong local news, locally produced features and the “Air Check” show, creating a great membership program, adding more NPR programming, achieving healthy underwriting, finding a future new home for the station, and continuing to provide a rich variety of music. While I wish we’d had her at KRCC longer, I also knew Tammy would be in demand. I am grateful for her excellent work here, and wish her all the best.
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