Local Government

Monday, October 21, 2019

Construction of pedestrian bridge from Olympic Museum appears at hand

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2019 at 4:00 PM

An aerial view in an artist's rendering of the bridge linking to America the Beautiful Park. - COURTESY DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO
  • Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro
  • An aerial view in an artist's rendering of the bridge linking to America the Beautiful Park.
It's hard not to miss the progress made on the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame at Vermijo and Sierra Madre streets. Officials have previously said it will open in early 2020.

Now, the pedestrian bridge that will link the museum with America the Beautiful Park is about to get underway, according to a resolution due to City Council for consideration on Oct. 22.

The resolution, if approved, would hand over the property beneath the bridge's landing spot to an entity controlled by Nor'wood Development Group, which is helping to fund the bridge and has major designs on that entire area of lower downtown.

The $11 million contract to build the bridge was awarded earlier this year, and now the city must transfer the property to enable the work to begin.

Or, as the city put it in backup materials for the Council's Oct. 22 action, "The construction of the bridge is imminent, thus the conveyance of 125 Cimino [Drive] is urgent."

In those materials, the city says Nor'wood will build the bridge's landing, staircase and elevator at a cost of approximately $2.6 million while also donating cash for the bridge.
Looking east from America the Beautiful Park where the pedestrian bridge will connect with the museum. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Looking east from America the Beautiful Park where the pedestrian bridge will connect with the museum.
The resolution, which can be read below, doesn't change the commitment Nor'wood made in early 2017 to clean up remnants of a coal gasification plant located at 25 and 125 Cimino that left carcinogenic coal tar beneath it, says city spokesperson Kim Melchor.

After signing off on the deal to clean it up and take possession of the property, Nor'wood and the city have failed to close the land transaction. As of today, Oct. 21, the property remains in the city's hands.

From an earlier Indy story:
Records show the city and Nor’wood have postponed the land transaction a dozen times, and that Nor’wood might have second thoughts about assuming responsibility for the Cimino property cleanup, which a city contractor, LT Environmental Inc. of Arvada, estimates will cost $4.5 million.

In a Nov. 1, 2018, email to Nor’wood’s attorney, a senior city attorney wrote, “The City’s position is that Council wanted Nor-wood to assume the costs of cleaning the property, no matter what they were. So, at this point, we won’t be agreeable to a change in the agreement that would allow Nor’wood the option to decline assuming responsibility for any required cleanup.”
The resolution:
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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

District attorney candidates bring in the cash

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 5:32 PM

Commissioner Waller leads the fund-raising race. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Commissioner Waller leads the fund-raising race.
The battle for the Republican nomination for top prosecutor in the 4th Judicial District is shaping up to be a well-funded race on both sides, according to campaign finance reports filed Oct. 15.

El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller has brought in $35,895, of which $10,000 was a loan by the candidate and has $33,583 on hand.

Waller's backers include a number of developers, including Vince Colarelli, Gary Erickson, Mark Long, several employees of Classic Homes and Danny Mientka. So it's not surprising that he's also won support from the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen

Waller also drew contributions from former State Sen. Bernie Herpin and his wife and fellow Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen, who's not held elective office before, has raised $21,750 and has $14,928 on hand.

Notables in Allen's camp include downtown developers Sam and Kathleen Guadagnoli, former CEO of the El Pomar Foundation Bill Hybl and El Pomar board member Thayer Tutt Jr., downtown entrepreneur Perry Sanders, Mayor John Suthers, City Councilor Jill Gaebler and the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association.

So far, the two Republicans are the only ones seeking to succeed DA Dan May, who's held the seat for three four-year terms and is term-limited from seeking a fourth.
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Roads tax "vote yes" effort draws thousands of dollars in support from contractors

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 3:12 PM

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All the usual suspects — road contractors, local developers and construction companies — have poured money into a political action committee formed to urge voters to approve the city's 2C road tax measure.

The tax, known on the ballot as 2C (an initiative the Indy has endorsed), proposes to extend by five years the city's tax for road improvements that was adopted by voters in 2015, but would lower the rate from .62 percent to .57 percent. The tax would raise more than $50 million a year.

Dubbed "Building COS," the committee has raised $135,090 and spent $90,815, most on radio ads and mailers.

The biggest donation came from Colorado Springs Forward, a business activist group that's donated to several campaigns supporting tax and fee increases in recent years.

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But given that it's unknown if the nonprofit even has an executive director — the most recent post on its Facebook page is dated over a year ago and its website is inaccessible — someone might wonder, Is this still a thing? Google shows it's shut down, or "permanently closed," as illustrated to the right.

But CSF apparently it is very much still a thing, because it ponied up $50,000 toward the road tax "vote yes" effort.

The "vote yes" committee has drawn many small donations, including $250 each from Mayor John Suthers, who proposed the measure, and his Chief of Staff Jeff Greene.

But the big money came from those involved in the construction industry, as follows:

  • $1,000: Trax Construction, Kathy Loo of High Valley Group, Ray Nunn of Nunn Construction, Developer Danny Mientka, and Vivid Engineering Group, all of Colorado Springs.
  • $2,000: Businessman Phil Lane and Nunn Construction, both of Colorado Springs.
  • $2,500: Jim and Laura Johnson (owners of GE Johnson) and Phil Long Dealerships, Inc., both of Colorado Springs.
  • $5,000: Gaylord Smith of AA Construction, GE Johnson Construction, Church Community Builder, Nor'wood Development Group, and the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, all of Colorado Springs; Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association, Centennial; Western Milling LLC, Grand Junction; A-1 Chipseal, Denver, and Even-Preisser, Inc., Monument.
  • $20,000: Work Zone Traffic Control, Inc., Pueblo.
Against the 2C measure is SpringsTaxpayers.com, which has announced it launched a radio ad this week.

Run by political operative Laura Carno, the organization is "committed to holding local government accountable," she says.

Says Carno in a news release:
We oppose the passage of 2C, the renewal of the pothole tax. Even outside of the annual income from the current pothole tax, and from the Stormwater Fee, the City of Colorado Springs has record revenue, and record spending. City government can prioritize roads, bridges, and public safety today. It doesn’t need to renew a sales tax to prioritize these important expenditures.
She also notes in the release that voters should keep in mind those projects on which the city spends money that might not be considered a high priority by voters, such as bike lanes, neighborhood traffic-calming projects, legal bills for a City Council member, and the $16 million subsidy for retailer Scheels.

SpringsTaxpayers.com has also published a report on how the original 2C money was spent, reporting that only 53% went to paving and potholes.

As for the other city measure on the ballot, 2B, a group called "Vote Yes for Parks" hasn't raised or spent any money. The measure asks voters to allow the city to keep $7 million in money in excess of limits imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and spend it on parks.
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Help the city, plant a tree. City kicks off Tree Challenge.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 12:13 PM

Mayor John Suthers, second from left, joined others, including Parks Director Karen Palus, right, and Councilor Yolanda Avila, second from right, in planting a tree on Oct. 15 to kick off the city's Tree Challenge that will span the next two years. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers, second from left, joined others, including Parks Director Karen Palus, right, and Councilor Yolanda Avila, second from right, in planting a tree on Oct. 15 to kick off the city's Tree Challenge that will span the next two years.
In a 25-minute ceremony on Oct. 15, Mayor John Suthers and other city officials kicked off a program that could have results that span several lifetimes.

They gathered at Alamo Square outside the Pioneers Museum to launch the city's Tree Challenge. The goal is to plant 18,071 trees (the number chosen to represent the city's founding year of 1871) by the end of 2021 to mark the city's sesquicentennial celebration.

As a stout breeze chilled onlookers, Suthers reminded those on hand of the city's founder Gen. William J. Palmer's dedication to creating a tree canopy by planting 600 cottonwood trees. He also saw to it that Monument Valley Park hosts at least one of every tree native to Colorado, many of which survive today.

"While this tree will make our city a little bit better," Suthers said, referencing the Ohio Buckeye he and others helped plant, "together we can accomplish a whole lot more."

He said the city and Colorado Springs Utilities will partner to offer credits to those who plant trees, details of which will be announced at a later date.

City forester Dennis Will noted that a recent assessment of the city's tree canopy set the value of the trees at $900 million. Those trees gobble 2.7 million tons of pollution per year, an added value of $100 million.

If the city were to simply buy 18,071 trees, the bill would come to $5.4 million, he said. Thus, it's important to make sure the trees that are planted during the city's Tree Challenge are given the best opportunity to thrive. that means planting at the right time — spring or early fall — and making sure trees are place in the right locations, outside the domain of power lines and not too close to sidewalks, for example.

Read all the points for planting and growing trees, including rules for planting in city rights of way by going here. You can track the tree you plant or donate to the effort if your living space isn't conducive to adding trees.
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Friday, October 11, 2019

City ends talks with Danish company, invites AMR to the table

Posted By on Fri, Oct 11, 2019 at 4:55 PM

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  • Shutterstock.com
The city of Colorado Springs announced on Oct. 11 that negotiations with Falck Ambulance had ended and new talks with American Medical Response had begun for the city's emergency ambulance service.

City spokesperson Jamie Fabos provided this statement:

The City of Colorado Springs / CSFD and ambulance provider Falck Rocky Mountain have mutually agreed to end negotiations without a finalized contract. CSFD and the City found Falck to be a professional and well-managed company and regret that negotiations were not successful. Falck entered into the RFP and negotiated in good faith, and the City thanks Falck for the time and effort in this process.

In compliance with City procurement rules, the City/CSFD will now engage in negotiations with the next highest ranked offeror, American Medical Response. The City/CSFD team will begin negotiating a contract with AMR as soon as possible.

This RFP process was entered into with a single goal in mind; to improve the EMS transport system in Colorado Springs for the benefit of its residents. This goal has not changed and the City/CSFD team will continue to pursue overall system improvement moving forward. To protect the integrity of ongoing negotiations, the City's procurement rules dictate that there will be no further comment on the process or negotiations until the conclusion of the negotiation period.
Scott Lenn, AMR's vice president of operations, says in an email, "We appreciate the opportunity and look forward to sitting down to discuss the EMS system in Colorado Springs."

David Patterson, Falck Rocky Mountain CEO, had this to say:
Falck is honored to have been selected as the successful bidder in the 9-1-1 emergency ambulance request for proposals (RFP) process for the city of Colorado Springs. We are proud of our remarkable 113-year history of quality global service, including our successful partnership with the City of Aurora. We believe that our track record and a very competitive proposal for the stakeholders of Colorado Springs’ EMS system is what earned us this opportunity.

In response to the City’s RFP, Falck provided two proposals that both met or exceeded RFP requirements. According to the City, Falck was selected “based on the evaluation criteria and interviews”. During final negotiations, the City indicated it wanted a contract with Falck that was considerably different than either of our proposals; one that would require Falck to make service delivery commitments that we believe are significantly at risk of not being sustainable. Falck entered these negotiations in good faith, offering alternatives that would measurably improve service delivery. However, we are not willing to make unsustainable commitments, and we believe the City would agree that it would be irresponsible to do so. Unfortunately, after ten days of negotiation, both parties have been unable to reach an agreement based on the RFP and our proposals.

Falck greatly appreciates the warm welcome extended to us by the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Fire Department officials involved in this process, and we commend their desire to improve emergency ambulance service delivery to the community. We offer our thanks to the stakeholders, officials, and employees of the current system who contacted us with optimism regarding an anticipated change in providers. We remain strongly committed to the proposals we submitted, and are hopeful that we can work together with the City to find a mutually agreeable solution to serve the needs of Colorado Springs, its residents and visitors.
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Friday, October 4, 2019

DA Dan May refers De'Von Bailey police shooting case to a grand jury

Posted By on Fri, Oct 4, 2019 at 3:50 PM

DA Dan May has referred the De'Von Bailey shooting by police to a grand jury. - COURTESY 4TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT
  • Courtesy 4th Judicial District
  • DA Dan May has referred the De'Von Bailey shooting by police to a grand jury.
For only the second time in more than 19 years, the District Attorney's Office has referred an officer-involved shooting to a grand jury.

The announcement that the case of De'Von Bailey, shot and killed on Aug. 3 by two Colorado Springs Police Department officers, has been placed in a grand jury's hands was made on social media on Oct. 4. DA Dan May's office said there would be no further comment.

Bailey was shot several times by Sgt. Alan Van't Land and Officer Blake Evenson as he fled on foot after being stopped for questioning in connection with an armed robbery. Officers found a handgun in his shorts pocket after he fell.

The only other time the DA's Office has referred an officer-involved shooting case to a grand jury, the jury returned a "no true bill" in the 2011 shooting death of James Guy, 22, who was shot in the back by Officer Nathan Jorstad. No true bill means the officer wasn't charged with a crime and, thus, the shooting was deemed justified.

Bailey, too, was shot in the back, just as 10 others have been over the years, as the Independent reported this week in its cover story, "Line of Fire."

Attorneys for the Bailey family expressed disappointment with the decision to refer the case to a grand jury, calling the case "infected" with conflicts of interest in the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, which conducted the shooting investigation. They also expressed doubt the grand jury would be impartial.

Here's the statement in full issued by Darold Kilmer and Mari Newman, partners at Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, which represents, along with attorney Daniel Kay, the Bailey family in the officer-involved shooting death of Bailey:
Unfortunately, the decision to have the local DA’s office present the case to the grand jury at this point is too little too late. The grand jury‘s ability to make a decision is only as good as the information provided to it. The investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department is already infected by many conflicts of interest within that office, and within DA Dan May’s office. I fully anticipate that the case presentation by a conflicted local district attorney will be biased in favor of the local police.

Our concern is that the local prosecutors are too reliant on local police to make an independent presentation to the Grand Jury. They will likely present the matter in a way to cause charges to not be filed. The Grand Jury should be led by an INDEPENDENT Prosecutor. We’ve always believed it should be presented to the Grand Jury by the Colorado Attorney General’s office or even a prosecutor from another jurisdiction that has no relation or ties to the 4th Judicial District or Colorado Springs DA Dan May, who has deep conflicts of interest in the matter. The local police are simply too close to the local prosecutors to give confidence that the presentation to the Grand Jury will be truly impartial. 
The Rev. Promise Lee spoke to City Council on Sept. 10, urging an independent investigation of the shooting of De'Von Bailey. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS WEBSITE
  • City of Colorado Springs website
  • The Rev. Promise Lee spoke to City Council on Sept. 10, urging an independent investigation of the shooting of De'Von Bailey.
The Rev. Promise Lee, a leader in the southeast part of the city where the shooting occurred, echoed those concerns.

He said that he and Bailey's father met with Gov. Jared Polis on Oct. 3 and asked that he issue an executive order for an independent investigation.

"I think he was genuinely sympathetic," Lee said. "He said he wouldn't exercise that at this time, so I asked him if he could be more vocal and make a call to [Colorado Springs Mayor] John
Suthers and the district attorney, and he said he would. My sense is he was trying to allow this jurisdiction to do the right thing here."

Lee says the family, which has been meeting with the DA's Office twice a month since the shooting, was told on Oct. 4 about the decision to refer the case to a grand jury.

"We're just hoping the prosecuting attorney will handle this ethically and do the right thing," he said. "We don't even know when it will convene."

 
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Falck Ambulance settles unfair competitive practices claims

Posted By on Fri, Oct 4, 2019 at 12:40 PM

COURTESY FALCK AMBULANCE
  • Courtesy Falck Ambulance
This blog has been updated to report that Falck has also sued SG Collaborative.

Falck Rocky Mountain is negotiating with the city of Colorado Springs for a five-year emergency ambulance contract, and adverse news keeps creeping out about the Denmark-based company.

The latest revelation outlines claims by the Danish Competition Council against Falck alleging unfair competitive practices, which led to a settlement this year in which Falck acknowledged its actions, agreed to pay the equivalent of $22.4 million to a competitor as compensation after it went bankrupt, and vowed not to repeat the actions it took that led to the council's action.

Locally, after Falck was chosen by the city, American Medical Response (AMR) protested the selection on Aug. 23. AMR, of Greenwood Village, and its predecessor company has provided emergency ambulance service locally for some 40 years and was the first to contract directly with the city starting in 2014. (AMR also protested the city's choice last year of Priority Ambulance. The city eventually broke off talks and extended AMR's contract temporarily until a new round of proposals could be considered, which resulted in the selection of Falck.)

The city rejected AMR's protest and reportedly is hammering out a deal with Falck. But speed bumps keep arising. First, Falck said it planned to hire AMR personnel to work under the Colorado Springs contract, but AMR countered by saying the company expected to keep most of its workers employed on other contracts. If that plays out as AMR predicts, Falck could have a hard time hiring, because there's a national shortage of emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Other issues:

• Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, San Leandro, California, wrote a letter Sept. 23 to Falck saying the company is failing to meet performance standards. (An agency official told the Independent in early September there had been "a successful transition" to Falck from Paramedics Plus and that "all partners worked well together during the transition.") However, the Sept. 23 letter advised Falck of a $372,500 penalty the agency would impose after Falck failed to meet the 90 percent performance expectations in July and August, meaning the responses were too slow. The letter also gave Falck until Oct. 8 to submit a "corrective action plan."

• On Sept. 26, Scott Griffith Collaborative Solutions LLC (SGC), Westlake, Texas, filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of California against Falck NorCal, its subsidiary Care Ambulance Service and Falck USA. The suit alleges copyright and trademark infringement and unfair competition under federal and California laws. SGC alleges Falck borrowed its intellectual property developed to assist aviation, health care and transportation industries operate at a higher level of safety and reliability through specific methods and techniques it calls "revolutionary." In 2015, SGC granted Care Ambulance a onetime use of the materials. In September 2019, the lawsuit alleges, Falck NorCal used SGC's products in its proposal for the Alameda County contract. The lawsuit seeks to bar Falck from using SGC's materials and monetary damages as proven at trial.

On that same day, in the Northern District of U.S. District Court in Texas, Falck sued SGC, claiming breach of contract, business disparagement, libel and interference.

Falck contends SGC gave permission to Care Ambulance to use its materials in a 2016 agreement and later claimed it hadn't given permission. After SGC issued a letter demanding the Falck stop using the materials, "Falck promptly responded to the demand letter by explaining that Care was included as a respondent on the subject request for proposal response bid, and that the
material was accordingly used in accordance with the Agreement and the May 20, 2016
Written Consent," the lawsuit says.

From Falck's suit:
However, before Falck could even respond to the demand letter, Defendant shared the letter with one or more competitors of Falck and Care, and the letter was reported by various media outlets, published in its entirety by at least one outlet, which broadcast it under the following headline: “Falck Ambulance, the city’s choice for a 5‐year contract, accused of lying in a proposal in California.” 
Moreover, Falck accuses SGC of "making statements "maliciously and with an intentional disregard of their accuracy, and in complete disregard of what is actually provided for in the Agreement and written consents." Falck seeks damages to be proven at trial.
   
Falck Rocky Mountain CEO David Patterson tells the Indy via email the Alameda contract represents a transition from a provider that wasn't complying with response times and was "severely understaffed." Falck has hired 66 EMTs and paramedics there since July 1, growing the workforce more than 15 percent. Those employees are being trained, he said, adding, "While not yet where we want them to be, response times improved in the first two months following Falck’s assumption of the contract from the previous provider." Patterson predicted "significant improvement" in compliance due to changes Falck has made.

Regarding the copyright infringement suit, Patterson says Care Ambulance Service Inc., "has a valid contract" with SGC "to use copyrighted material and intellectual property of SG Collaborative in 911 bids." He adds that Falck possesses emails in which SGC expresses interest in Falck sharing the SGC strategies in 911 service bids. In a Sept. 13 statement to the Indy, Falck said it was "prepared to pursue further legal action to remedy the situation." He also noted the SGC materials were not used in its Colorado Springs bid.

Falck is contrite about the unfair competition case.
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  • Shutterstock.com
"Falck acted in a way that was unacceptable and which we will never repeat," Falck President and CEO Jakob Riis said in a statement. "We have accepted the ruling by the authorities. We have worked to create a joint solution for both large and small creditors. We are happy that we have reached a settlement and will now pay the parties’ losses."

Falck said in a news release in response to the ruling earlier this year, "Around 500 minor creditors will be covered by the bankruptcy estate with an amount, which as matters stand, is considered sufficient to ensure payment of the known claims against the [BIOS] bankruptcy estate."

A question also has arisen about Falck's business ventures in Russia and its data storage of personal customer information. Its website states the company "may transfer some of your data to recipients in countries outside the EU/EEA [European Union/European Economic Area] as we may use external suppliers to host/store some of our data and personal information."

Asked about that, Patterson calls Falck's data security program "robust" and says Falck "follows a layered approach to the international data transfers considering first whether the third country provides an adequate level of protection, as recognized by the European Commission, and ensuring that the exported data will be safeguarded in that country."

Although one Indy reader pointed out that Falck also provides fire service to government agencies worldwide, raising the idea that Falck might be eying a Colorado Springs Fire Department takeover, Patterson dismisses that concern.

Falck's focus is industrial firefighting, he says, adding, "There are no plans for this in the U.S. Interestingly, AMR, through their acquisition of Rural/Metro, provides privatized fire service in the United States today."

As for AMR's record: It's faced criticism locally for failing to meet response times without the help of firefighters. It also racked up more than $1 million in fines in Georgia last year due to slow response times.
 
Scott Lenn, vice president of operations for AMR, says the contract issue was resolved.

"In the EMS industry, there may be disagreements over response time penalties due to causes that are out of the provider's control such as weather, traffic accidents or system problems," he says.

The city wants the ambulance provider to pay $1.4 million a year to reimburse the city for firefighter support in responding to medical calls. The contract in place today requires a payment of $1.17 million annually. The new five-year contract, to take effect in January, contains five one-year options for renewal.
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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Independent report: Most people shot by officers are armed

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2019 at 10:21 AM

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Cries of racism in connection with the De'Von Bailey shooting by police on Aug. 3 prompted the Independent to take a deeper look at officer-involved shootings in the region, which is featured as our cover story in this week's issue.

A close look at 68 shootings that involved 70 suspects shows that officers shot at six black people, which comprised 9 percent of the total. The local black population comprises about 6.9 percent of the total, which shows a close correlation.

The Indy's review of District Attorney's Office rulings in the 4th Judicial District, coroner reports, jail booking records and media reports revealed other important findings:

• Most people killed had drugs and/or alcohol in their systems.
• Most people shot at were armed, and most of those armed chose guns.
• All but one of the shootings for which a decision has been rendered were ruled justified by the DA's Office; the other was ruled justified by a grand jury. Three are pending.
• Despite those rulings, two agencies paid settlements to families of suspects who were killed, and three shootings wound up involving people who were innocent.
COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
• Officers shot at more suspects and killed more people in the period from 2011 through September 2019, compared to the first decade, 2001 to 2010.

We also looked at Taser use by Colorado Springs Police Department officers, which wasn't reported in this week's story. We found that while Taser use has increased — from 118 times in 2012 to 142 times in 2018 — when figured against the number of calls for service, it's actually declined.

But assaults on police officers is on the rise, significantly. From 2011 to 2018, officers saw a 158-percent increase in assaults on officers.

Read our coverage here
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Monday, September 30, 2019

Police shooting on May 18 ruled justified by District Attorney's Office

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2019 at 1:53 PM

COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
Colorado Springs Police Officer Christopher Laabs won't be prosecuted for shooting and killing Sean Michael Collins on May 18, 2019, the 4th Judicial District DA's Office ruled on Sept. 30.

The ruling comes amid demands by the family of De'Von Bailey, a 19-year-old black man who was shot and killed by CSPD officers on Aug. 3, for an outside investigation of that case.

It's the seventh officer-involved shooting so far this year, the most recent of which took place on Sept. 29 in Monument with the death of David Page. It appears the CSPD will investigate that case, because El Paso County deputies were involved.

Of the seven shootings in 2019, four have been ruled justified by the DA's Office, meaning the DA decided not to file charges against the officers. Three others are pending. Those involved Page, Bailey and Joshua Vigil, shot on July 23.

This week's Independent takes an in-depth look at police-involved shootings.

Collins, who was white, was killed after a woman told officers Collins had threatened to kill her, hit her on the head with a shotgun and attempted to take her infant daughter away from her. The incident began at about 5:27 p.m. in the 4200 block of Forrest Hill Road in Colorado Springs and ended with Collins' death at approximately 9:08 p.m., the DA's report says.

Collins fired on officers using a shotgun and a handgun, and one officer was wounded by shrapnel. After officers deployed "chemical munitions" into the apartment, Collins "came out shooting," the report says.

From the report:
Although very little can be seen on the body-worn camera footage due to the poor lighting, the lighter sounds of Collin’s handgun can clearly be heard before the deeper sounds of Officer Laabs’ weapon. Collins fired three to four shots and as soon as Officer Laabs saw him emerge from the apartment firing his weapon, he returned fire with his weapon. Officer Laabs fired six times, hitting the suspect six times. 
Laabs is a member of the CSPD's Tactical Enforcement Unit.

Officers later found several weapons and ammunition, as well as body armor, inside the apartment.

Read the Sean Collins report here:
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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Local Dems call for Gov. Polis town hall meeting on police shooting

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2019 at 12:42 PM

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UPDATE:
El Paso County Democratic Party Chair Electra Johnson issued this statement over the weekend after the earlier press release was sent by another officer:
As the Chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party, it is my duty to provide oversight of all matters which involve the party. On Wednesday, Sept 26th, a press release was provided to media outlets which wrongfully represented the Executive Officers of the party.

This letter serves as a retraction of that press release. The original press release was made without the consent or approval of the officers to whom the statement was attributed. This misstep by one of our officers is deeply regretful. It has, however, provided an opportunity for the party to articulate a fully inclusive position on a highly sensitive matter which demands honesty, integrity, and transparency. If ever a time exists for political parties to be honest, exercise integrity, and provide transparency, that time is now and the El Paso County Democratic Party embraces it.


——————-ORIGINAL POST 12:42 P.M. THURSDAY, SEPT. 26, 2019—————————

The El Paso County Democratic Party has called for Gov. Jared Polis to hold a town hall meeting in Colorado Springs about the Aug. 3 officer-involved shooting of De'Von Bailey.

For background on this case, go here.

We've asked the state party to respond and will update when we hear something.

Here's the letter:

Sept. 15, 2019

Dear Honorable Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll,

This letter is sent to express an urgent need for the Colorado Democratic Party to live its values at a truly grassroots level. The Colorado Springs community has asked the Democratic Party's help to demand justice following the police shooting death of De'Von Bailey. Local organizers let it be known our Party's involvement is crucial for both life and safety as well as the health of our local democracy. The work of the community following the tragic death of De'Von Bailey is the work of our party. We must do our part as Democrats.
Gov. Jared Polis during a 2017 campaign stop in Colorado Springs. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Gov. Jared Polis during a 2017 campaign stop in Colorado Springs.
This letter asks a very specific request:

The Colorado Democratic Party should utilize our ties to Democratic Governor Jared Polis to request he host a town hall as soon possible in Colorado Springs regarding the police shooting death of De'Von Bailey. Ultimately, the community desires Governor Polis appoint a special prosecutor in this case and issue an executive order for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to carry out a special investigation of De'Von Bailey's death.

To the frustration of many community members, it appears as if government officials have passed the buck regarding the authority to pursue an impartial investigation here. It would seem the buck now ultimately rests with the Governor. Also, disturbing to the community are the reports that an officer involved in this shooting death, and other violent force incidents, has no available Colorado Springs Police Department internal records. We do a grave disservice to our Party and our community should we fail to recognize the frailty of voters' trust in our own local governments. We must intervene in this dangerous dynamic.

Governor Polis should know that without a town hall for follow through, many Colorado Springs voters have told us his statement on Bailey's death will be viewed as nothing more than the political pandering our party is so often accused of when it comes to people of color. Moreover, Bailey died from bullet wounds. The impact of gun violence festers throughout our nation. Colorado knows this wound profoundly.

The Colorado Democratic Party's genuine commitment and care toward the community regarding this tragedy is important to continue to build trust. Equally crucial, affecting this situation could set an important precedent shifting the arc of justice in our own community toward progress.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this matter.

Respectfully,
The Executive Officers of the El Paso County Democratic Party
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Friday, September 20, 2019

Climate Strike draws hundreds to City Hall

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 at 6:03 PM

Activists unrolled a banner in front of City Hall. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Activists unrolled a banner in front of City Hall.

Holding signs bearing slogans such as "End environmental racism," "Believe in science," and "Don't be a fossil fool," around 300 activists of all ages rallied on the steps of City Hall — and later marched around downtown — to demand action on climate change.

The Sept. 20 "Climate Strike" was part of a global movement, planned three days ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York — a meeting of leaders around the world who hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade.

Hundreds of people gathered to kick off Climate Action Week. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Hundreds of people gathered to kick off Climate Action Week.

Environmental nonprofit 350 Colorado publicized the event and helped coordinate strikes across the state.

In Colorado Springs, the strike included students from Palmer High School, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Colorado College, along with members of the NAACP - Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Group of the Sierra Club. City Council President Richard Skorman was among those in attendance.

Two people hold a sign reading "Time 2 act like your house is on fire. Because it is." - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Two people hold a sign reading "Time 2 act like your house is on fire. Because it is."

The impetus for a Global Climate Strike came from 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg (of sailing fame) and 45 other young people who called for students to walk out of school Sept. 20 and make their voices heard. They asked adults to leave work and join in, too.

Other strikes were planned in Denver outside the state Capitol, at Colorado School of Mines in Golden and at Pueblo's Rawlings Library, to name a few in Colorado. They're meant to kick off a worldwide Climate Action Week Sept. 21 to 29.

A high-energy crowd brandished signs and chanted. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • A high-energy crowd brandished signs and chanted.

Colorado's Action Week events are centered in the state's Capitol. They include a weeklong art installation on Denver's 16th Street Mall, protests in downtown Denver during rush hour Sept. 23, and a community garden-building event Sept. 29.

“Climate Change and pollution affects us, the citizens of Colorado Springs, whether we like it or not," said Palmer High School organizer Taylor Saulsbury, who was quoted in a statement from 350 Colorado. "...We are standing up for a future stolen from us whether our teachers or our government like it or not.”

Teen activist Emma Tang joined the rally. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Teen activist Emma Tang joined the rally.
At one point, Colorado Springs protesters chanted about closing the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant, a central issue for local environmental activists. The plant is scheduled to be decommissioned no later than 2035.

However, activists have repeatedly demanded that Colorado Springs Utilities close the plant (along with the Ray Nixon Power Plant in Fountain) as soon as possible.

A recent study by Strategen found that the Drake coal-fired units, which came online in 1968 and 1974, would cost $42.5 million more over 30 years to run compared to wind and solar.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

City Council approves tiny home village for at-risk young people

Posted By on Tue, Sep 17, 2019 at 11:11 AM

A tiny home development will go forward in the Mill Street neighborhood. - COURTESY OF WE FORTIFY
  • Courtesy of We Fortify
  • A tiny home development will go forward in the Mill Street neighborhood.

A tiny home village for at-risk young people in the Mill Street neighborhood will be Colorado Springs' first such development, thanks to City Council's unanimous approval of the project Sept. 10.

(Other than tuberculosis huts in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the city's never had a tiny home development, according to the project consultant.)

The development, dubbed Working Fusion at Mill Street, replaces five 19th-century homes on Fountain Boulevard between Sierra Madre and Sahwatch streets with 18 tiny homes, each about 240 square feet.

They'll will be rented, for $600 a month, to young people between the ages of 18 and 29 working toward independence — those who have a steady job and don’t use drugs, but may need an extra hand after leaving the foster care system, exiting military service, or encountering life difficulties that could put them at risk of becoming homeless.

While Councilor David Geislinger ultimately supported the project, he initially voiced concern that the price tag could be steep for a low-income renter.

Going by the formula that 30 percent of one's income should go to rent, he pointed out, "that's a yearly take-home of $24,000, or about $12 an hour. ...I guess the question I have is, what is the population that you're trying to bring into this? And is it a population that realistically we can expect to have take-home pay of $24,000 a year?"

(Of note: A former resident of one of the 19th-century homes on the future project site told the Indy in August she was paying $500 a month for rent, less than the at-risk young people will pay. Colorado has a minimum wage of $11.10, which will bump up to $12 in 2020.)

Project founder Shelley Jensen said she expects residents to be financially challenged, and that an emergency fund will help provide a cushion if they can't make a rent payment. Wraparound services tailored to each person, which could include budgeting classes, career counseling and anger management, will be offered to the residents through the nonprofit running the village, We Fortify.

Joanne Zeigler spoke on behalf of the Mill Street Neighborhood Association, which opposes the project. She argued that the neighborhood was already overwhelmed by clients using Springs Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army Shelter & Services at RJ Montgomery.

"Ever since we've started public hearings, we've described that these people who are going to be the residents are not going to be homeless," Jensen argued. "And I get it, that it's hard to believe that, because there is so much transient activity down there." She told Council that she had expressed a willingness to work with the neighborhood on a "good neighbor contract," but hadn't received a response.

Ultimately, City Council voted 8-0 in favor of the project, with Councilor Wayne Williams absent.

"I really appreciate this project and all the work you've put into it," Council President Richard Skorman told Jensen before the vote, calling it "a good example of what we can do in the future."

The property is owned by the Flaks Family Trust, which planned to demolish the old houses whether or not the project secured approval. Developer Kairos Project 17 has a 10-year lease.
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Monday, September 16, 2019

AMR appeals city decision to deny its protest of ambulance bids

Posted By on Mon, Sep 16, 2019 at 5:03 PM

COURTESY FALCK AMBULANCE
  • Courtesy Falck Ambulance
The ordeal of selecting an emergency ambulance provider has taken on a life of its own, with the latest volley from American Medical Response noting, "as the saying goes, there may be something rotten in Denmark," a play on the chosen contractor, Danish firm, Falck Ambulance.

In a Sept. 13 letter to Mayor John Suthers, Greenwood Village-based AMR appeals the city procurement department's protest. That protest objected to the city's selection of Falck with which to negotiate a five-year contract that begins in January.

Read the background on this complicated process here.

AMR, which has provided emergency ambulance service here for decades, says one basis of its appeal stems from the procurement department's denial of request for proposal records AMR sought after Falck was chosen.

From the letter:
This is inconsistent with the City’s commitment to open government as set forth in its CORA Administrative Regulation 2019-01 and the City Open Data Policy signed by you. We note the City’s Open Data Policy identifies that it was “developed to outline the City of Colorado Springs’ commitment to the principles of open government, including transparency and civic engagement.”

As noted in our Protest, the Procurement Department’s refusal to produce public records that form the basis for the Award along with the Procurement Department’s requirement that we file our Protest blind is a fatal flaw in the RFP process. It undermines the Procurement Department’s stated objective to “assure a procurement system of quality, integrity and accountability.” See Procurement Rules, Section 1-100. Not only AMR, but the citizens of this City have a right to know that the basis for the August 16th Award on life-saving ambulance services to determine whether it was the right decision including, whether the City’s Danish provider was truthful in its proposal to the City and will actually live up to its promises. Given recent revelations from Falck’s proposal to and performance in Alameda County, California, there are questions about these points and as the saying goes, there may be something rotten in Denmark. 
The point to all that, AMR says, is that without being able to see the proposal submitted by Falck, AMR and the public cannot make an assessment of Falck's qualifications.

It's worth noting that First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg of Denver is representing AMR on the open records question.

Falck Rocky Mountain CEO David Patterson responded to a request for comment by saying he'd already issued a statement regarding an allegation from SG Collaborative. That situation is covered in the link about the complicated process.

Here's the city's process for dealing with appeals:
4-105.5 Appeals
An aggrieved party must submit a written appeal of the decision issued by the Procurement Services Manager to the Mayor within seven (7) Days after receiving the decision. The Mayor may:
a) render a decision and that decision shall rule; or
b) assemble a committee to review the protest and all relevant data from involved parties. This committee may include the Chief Financial Officer, a representative of the Chief of Staff, and the division head of the Using Department. This committee shall issue a final decision. The majority decision made by the committee shall rule.

Regarding the final decision, the committee or the Mayor may:
a) render an immediate decision in the matter, especially matters that are specifically addressed in these Regulations;
b) request additional documentation or meetings with parties involved; or
c) utilize any other method deemed appropriate to bring the matter to timely resolution.
The decision, once issued, is final and will exhaust the administrative remedies. The Mayor or the committee shall issue the final decision within twenty-one (21) Days after receiving such an appeal, unless extended by agreement between the protester and the Mayor or the committee. This final decision does not preclude the protestor from pursuing further legal action allowed by the laws of Colorado. Once the final decision is issued, the stay of procurement shall be immediately lifted.
If unsatisfied by the appeal decision, AMR apparently could take its case to court.

Read AMR's appeal:
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Friday, September 13, 2019

UPDATE: Fire Department slashes service level due to "significant" budget error

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 11:25 AM

Squad 11, a two-person team the runs first response to medical calls, has been  shut down in the southeast part of the city. The nearest squad now is Squad 8, located near Airport Road and Academy Boulevard. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Squad 11, a two-person team the runs first response to medical calls, has been shut down in the southeast part of the city. The nearest squad now is Squad 8, located near Airport Road and Academy Boulevard.

UPDATE:
Mayor John Suthers said in a statement the Fire Department will "effective immediately" restore service by Squad 11 in the southeast sector of the city.

His full statement:
I was briefed today by Chief Collas about the full scope of the fire department’s budget issues and that projected expenditures may exceed the 2019 budget. We also discussed the department’s plan to meet those budget requirements by the end of the year. CSFD has developed several solutions designed to have the least impact to public safety services citywide. After our discussion today, the fire department will reinstate Squad 11 in southeast Colorado effective immediately.

———————-ORIGINAL POST 11:25 A.M., FRIDAY, SEPT. 13, 2019—————————

Colorado Springs firefighters are crying foul over service cuts, including the dismantling of Squad 11 that makes just under 3,000 runs a year in the city's southeast sector, triggered by a recent discovery of a "significant error" in the Fire Department's 2019 budget.

In a release issued Sept. 13, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5 (the union) said the cuts will "negatively affect the fire department's service delivery" and have a "possibly dangerous impact."

We've asked the city for a comment, and will update when we hear something. But it's worth noting that Mayor John Suthers didn't even hint at the cuts during his State of the City address on Sept. 12, which was interrupted several times by protesters decrying the police shooting of 19-year-old DeVon Bailey on Aug. 3 in the city's southeast sector.

According to a source, the cuts were announced to top fire personnel on Sept. 5 and already have gone into practice.

The budget shortfall could reach $1.5 million due to an "oversight," Local 5's release said.

"In an attempt to offset this significant financial shortfall, the Fire Chief [Ted Collas] has taken drastic measures that will have a negative and possibly dangerous impact on how the fire department provides service," the release said.
Among the cuts:

• Shutting down Squad 11, the Advanced Life Support Paramedic unit on the Southeast side at Jet Wing Drive and Academy Boulevard. The squad made 2,673 runs in 2017 and 2,810 in 2018, according to a source. The suspension of Squad 11 will "increase response times during medical emergencies," Local 5 said.

• Reassigning staff from positions such as captain of emergency management, training division captain, medical lieutenant, and public information officer to serve on fire crews at stations.

• Cancelling mandated training for specialized personnel, such as in hazardous materials.

• Cancelling fall Paramedic School for firefighters seeking to become Advanced Life Support providers, which Local 5 says will hinder the department’s ability to recover from a continued paramedic shortage.

Mayor Suthers discussing the 2019 budget in October 2018. He didn't mention the cuts during his Sept. 12 State of the City Address. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mayor Suthers discussing the 2019 budget in October 2018. He didn't mention the cuts during his Sept. 12 State of the City Address.
Regarding Squad 11, Local 5's release stated, "[R]esidents on the southeast part of town may have to wait longer for a paramedic fire unit when their loved one has a dire medical need. The Colorado Springs Firefighters believe this reduction of service is unacceptable."

But City Councilor Yolanda Avila, who represents the southeast District 4, was circumspect when told of the cuts on Sept. 13 by the Indy. (She acknowledged no one from the city had yet informed her of the service changes.)

"On the surface it doesn't sound good," she says. "Before I make a statement, I need to see the whole story and what the facts are. Sometimes it looks different when I do more digging."

Councilor Don Knight also was caught off guard by the firefighters' release, and noted Council's budget committee met on Sept. 10 but the cuts weren't discussed.

Local 5 noted the cut of Squad 11 is in direct conflict with the department's mission of providing the highest quality of problem solving, fire and rescue service.

From the release:
Despite this isolated and internal event within the fire department, this occurrence brings to light a larger systemic issue ... making public safety a continued priority. As the city grows, the fire department must grow accordingly. Our economy is the best it has been since the Great Recession. Yet, the Colorado Springs Fire Department continues to operate at recession level staffing numbers. As residents of Colorado Springs, this should concern you. A basic tenet of government is public safety. Every politician claims that public safety is a priority. With budget discussions for 2020 around the corner, we will see how much of a priority public safety truly is. If things stay status quo, the fire department's service delivery will remain compromised.
Local 5 proposed collective bargaining for its ranks in the April 2019 city election, but voters soundly defeated the measure after Suthers campaigned vigorously at service clubs and in radio and TV ads.

He and Council pledged to add firefighters, but it's unclear how many new positions have been hired.

During the April election campaign, firefighters asserted that by the end of 2019, the department would have 451 assigned firefighters, two fewer positions than in 2008. While plans call for adding 12 for the Cimarron Hills Fire Protection District, the union said in its statement "We [are] fundamentally still short of where we were 12 years ago."

We'll update if and when we hear back from the city and other City Council members.
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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

UPDATE: Falck Ambulance, the city's choice for a 5-year contract, accused of lying in a proposal in Califorina

Posted By on Tue, Sep 10, 2019 at 2:40 PM

COURTESY FALCK AMBULANCE
  • Courtesy Falck Ambulance
UPDATE:
David Patterson, CEO for Falck Rocky Mountain, sends us this response:
Care Ambulance Service, Inc. a subsidiary of Falck USA, Inc. (“Falck”) and respondent to the Alameda County 911 RFP, has a valid contract with SG Collaborative Solutions, LLC (“SG Collaborative”) specifically to use copyrighted material and intellectual property of SG Collaborative in 911 bids. We also have e-mail communications with SG Collaborative in which they show interest in us sharing their strategies in our 911 bids.

Falck has requested that SG Collaborative retract their cease and desist letter and affirm Falck’s proper and legal right to use the materials in 911 bids. We have also made it clear that Falck is prepared to pursue further legal action to remedy the situation.

Additionally, Falck’s proposal in Colorado Springs did not contain any SG Collaborative material or reference any SG Collaborative material.

At this point, Falck is unsure how SG Collaborative’s letter came into AMR’s possession, or what role AMR has played, if any, in disseminating these false accusations.
We will update again if we hear back from SG Collaborative.
This just in from Michael Coffin with SG Collaborative:
SG Collaborative has no contract with Care Ambulance that allows Care Ambulance or any related entity to use copyrighted material and intellectual property of SG Collaborative in 911 or any other bids.

A retraction demand has been made by Falck, but we are unaware of any basis for it. Our Notice of Cease and Desist stands as written. Falck does not have a legal right to use SG Collaborative materials for any purpose, nor to represent that they created them.

SG Collaborative has not reviewed the Colorado Springs proposal and therefore cannot comment on whether it incorporates any SG Collaborative materials.

This is a matter between SG Collaborative and Falck and will be handled accordingly.
As also received this comment from an AMR spokesperson:
This issue is between Falck and SG Collaborative. However, if the allegations about Falck are true, it would be concerning. There is a need for transparency in the RFP process in Colorado Springs and RFP processes elsewhere. We direct you to Falck and SG Collaborative for further comments.

—————————ORIGINAL POST 2:40 P.M., TUESDAY, SEPT. 20, 2019———————

The city of Colorado Springs' choice for a five-year emergency ambulance contract, Falck Ambulance, has been accused of lying in its response to a Request for Proposals for a contract with Alameda County, California. Falck took over the ambulance contract there July 1, replacing Paramedics Plus.

The letter making the claims, first reported by KRDO, was sent on Sept. 10 by Michael Coffin, the chief operating officer of SG Collaborative Solutions LLC of Westland, Texas.

The letter was provided to the Independent by American Medical Response (AMR), which was sent a copy of the letter by SGC. AMR, which has provided emergency ambulance service here for decades, has protest the city's decision to award the local contract to Falck.

Coffin's letter alleges Falck made several claims in its RFP to Alameda County that are false. For example, in Falck's RFP, it wrote that he consulted "nationally recognized SG Collaborative Solutions in 2015 to help establish a reliable framework for 'Collaborative Just Culture.'"

"This is not true," Coffin wrote. "Falck has not consulted with SG Collaborative Solutions ("SGC") at any time in the past, and is not, nor ever has been, licensed to use any of SGC's proprietary intellectual property, methods or tools.

Coffin spells out other claims Falck allegedly made that he said are "not true." Nor is Falch authorized to use SGC's images or logo.

"We were shocked to discover this, and wonder if this is an isolated instance of infringement, or if similar false claims are being made in other Falck proposals," Coffin wrote, adding that SGC will see "all legal remedies" if Falck doesn't "cease and desist the unauthorized use" of SGC materials, trademarked tools and the like.

We've asked for a comment on the letter from Alameda County Emergency Medical Services, AMR, Falck in California and in Colorado, and the city.

We'll update when we year back.

Here's the SGC letter:


 
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