Local News

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Colorado Springs parks big winner in health foundation grants

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 10:29 AM

The big winner in a recent round of grants provided via city-owned Memorial Hospital lease payments is the city's parks department, with a grant of $926,944. The money will be spent on Memorial Park trail and fitness improvements.

In a news release, the Colorado Springs Health Foundation board of trustees announced they've approved $1.37 million in grants to nine organizations in the region.

"Eight of these nine organizations were awarded funds to improve the built environment, which is defined as person-made spaces and places where we live, work, and play," the release said. "Research shows that the built environment influences our opportunities and choices to pursue greater (or lesser) physical activity. Improving the built environment in areas of high need is one way the Foundation aims to encourage healthy living for all residents in the Pikes Peak region."

So far this year, the foundation has awarded $2.94 million in grants. The foundation is funded by lease payments made to the city by University of Colorado Health on a 40-year lease of Memorial, which began in 2012.

Here's the listing of the latest round of grants:


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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

UPDATE: Felony charges dismissed against John San Agustin

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 at 12:16 PM

San Agustin during his Sheriff's Office tenure. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • San Agustin during his Sheriff's Office tenure.
UPDATE: We just heard via email from John San Agustin's attorney, Iris Eytan of Denver.

She called the prosecution of her client "malicious" and claimed the motive was to discredit him due to his opinions regarding the murder of Tom Clements, head of the Colorado Department of Corrections, at his Monument home in March 2013. (San Agustin reportedly believed others were involved besides the shooter, who was gunned down by lawmen in Texas; yet Sheriff Bill Elder tried to close the investigation until law enforcement agencies took issue with that, according to The Denver Post.)

Eytan also asserted that San Agustin was not in the room when the arrest of the domestic violence victim took place. Rather, she said, Chief Deputy DA Shannon Gerhart (now a judge) was there, along with sheriff's Commander Mitch Lincoln and Bureau Chief Al Harmon. Gerhart told a detective there was probable cause to arrest, she said. Meantime, San Agustin was not in the building, and there were no phone calls showing any contact with Sheriff Terry Maketa or Undersheriff Paula Presley, Eytan contends. She also said time cards were not presented to the grand jury.

The dismissal, Eytan says, "was disingenuous." While the 18th Judicial District claimed in its dismissal motion the case fell apart after a key witness, Sgt. Robert Jaworski, was forced to resign for making a racist remark, Eytan says his resignation came before he testified in front of the grand jury.

"It was nothing new," she said, adding that her prior motions that cited that fact were sealed by the judge, so it seemed as if the prosecutors were making a new revelation when, in fact, Jaworski's resignation was a long-standing known factor in the case.

Eytan contends, "They never had any evidence John was involved. Zero."

The Independent contacted the 18th Judicial District DA's Office to respond to Eytan's contentions, and the office declined to comment.

———ORIGINAL POST 10:37 A.M. TUESDAY, OCT. 17, 2017——————————

On Monday, Oct. 16, the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office dropped felony charges against John San Agustin, a commander during the Sheriff Terry Maketa years.

San Agustin was accused of being party to a scheme in which a woman was persuaded to drop her domestic violence complaint against a deputy said to be favored by Maketa and then was arrested on Sept. 12, 2013, for making a false police report.

The 18th DA's Office took up the case after 4th Judicial District DA Dan May bowed out, citing potential conflicts of interest. Both San Agustin and Maketa supported John Newsome for sheriff back in 2004 when May lost to Newsome. May returned to El Paso County politics four years later and was elected. He's currently in his third and final term.

In its motion, the 18th Judicial DA's Office describes how its case against San Agustin fell apart:

4. After the Grand Jury returned a true bill, it was apparent that former Sergeant Robert Jaworski was going to be a key prosecution witness at trial. The prosecution anticipated that he would have testified that he heard the defendant order the arrest of Ms. Trull. This, obviously, would have been a key piece of evidence. Shortly after the indictment, the People received information that Mr. Jaworski made racial comments towards then President Barak Obama, including calling him “n—-r.” Although the defendant is not African American, he is a person of color and the People believe that evidence of this statement would have been admissible on cross-examination to show bias on the part of Mr. Jaworski, which the People believe would severely damage not only the credibility of this key witness, but the value of his testimony in general.

5. Even with the issues related to Mr. Jaworski, the People believed that they should continue with the prosecution of this defendant, because they anticipated that Detective Lisa Kaiser would be a key witness as well. The prosecution anticipated that this witness would have testified that she felt there was no probable cause for the arrest of Kelli Trull, thereby making the arrest illegal. She also would have testified that she was ordered to arrest Ms. Trull by her superiors, which most likely included the defendant and then Chief Deputy District Attorney Shannon Gerhart. On June 14, 2017, in preparation of trial of co-defendant Terrance Maketa, Detective Kaiser said that it was definitely Chief Deputy District Attorney Gerhart who ordered Ms. Trull to be arrested and not the defendant or any of her supervisors. Again, this called into question the testimony of a key witness.

6. Finally, in late June and early July co-defendant Terrance Maketa was tried to a jury of twelve. The prosecution desired to call another witness whom they thought could offer relevant testimony related not only the co-defendant, but this defendant as well. This witness was Travis Garretson. Notwithstanding tireless, and herculean efforts to serve Mr. Garretson by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, they were unable to do so, and the People have no reason to believe that there will be a different result in the future.

7. Although several of the charges against co-defendant Maketa resulted in a hung jury, those charges related to offenses unrelated to the allegations against this defendant. In fact, the charges that relate to the defendant resulted in a not guilty verdict in the co-defendant's trial.
Read the entire motion to dismiss here:

It's worth noting that the same charges against Maketa stemming from the alleged incident resulted in not-guilty verdicts at his trial last summer. The jury reached an impasse on other charges, and the DA's Office is pursuing those. Trial is set for Jan. 23.

Undersheriff Paula Presley also has been charged in the same incident, as well as with other charges. Her trial is slated for February.

In November 2016, Presley, Maketa and San Agustin submitted a notice of claim to the county, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Sheriff's Office an many others claiming malicious prosecution, as we reported first (News, Dec. 28, 2016). Read the notice of claim letter here.

Specifically, the portion of that letter regarding San Agustin says he "has been forced to defend against criminal charges that are false, without merit, defamatory and groundless." It also notes his forensic investigation consultant business dried up after the charges were filed, as did his adjunct faculty post at UCCS, and that he's incurred significant attorney fees while being precluded from working with law enforcement due to the charges.

Dirtyelder.com, a website critical of Sheriff Bill Elder and others, used this illustration, at right, in its commentary about the dismissal of charges against San Agustin.

We've reached out to San Agustin's attorney, Iris Eytan of Denver. If we hear something, we'll circle back.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Pueblo to vote on strong mayor form of government

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 4:06 PM

Pueblo City Hall - CITY OF PUEBLO
  • City of Pueblo
  • Pueblo City Hall
A committee is urging Pueblo voters to switch to a strong mayor form of government after the city council approved a measure for the Nov. 7 coordinated election ballot.

Question 2A asks voters to switch to a full-time elected mayor instead of Pueblo's current system, which consists of seven part-time council members and a city manager that reports to them. The nonpartisan mayor would replace the city manager, and have the authority to appoint city department heads and propose a city budget with confirmation from the council. The Pueblo Board of Water Works and Civil Service Commission would continue to be independently elected.

Nick Gradisar, president of the Pueblo Board of Water Works and local attorney, is the head of the Committee to Elect a Mayor, which is calling for the change. He previously helped place two initiatives on the ballot, one for strong mayor and another for weak mayor, but voters rejected both. Now, he thinks it's time to try again, saying that many of the same problems that were present in 2009 are still present including, crime, opioid addiction and lackluster economic growth.

"We’re sort of going backwards while the rest of the state is going forwards, I think it’s hurt us significantly," Gradisar said at Southern Colorado Press Club meeting on Oct. 10.

And while it seems people have been flocking to Colorado in recent years, they haven’t been coming to Pueblo. Whereas it used to be the second largest city in Colorado in the ‘50s, Pueblo is now the ninth largest.

"That’s been very expensive for us, in terms of our influence in the state, in terms of our representation in the state legislature," Gradisar says. He adds that his group has taken valuable lessons from Colorado Springs, which switched from a council-city manager form of government similar to Pueblo’s, to a mayor-council form (or "strong mayor" system) after voters approved a charter change in 2010. Gradisar notes that the Springs’ first strong mayor, Steve Bach — known for an authoritarian streak and frequent battles with the council and others — didn’t necessarily have "experience with governmental entities."

"I think that we can see that although they had some issues with the first mayor they elected, the second mayor [current Mayor John Suthers] was able to focus the community’s attention on getting some serious problems solved and we think that the same thing can happen here in Pueblo," he says.

City Council is willing to give the measure a chance.

"All seven of us voted to put it on the ballot," says Councilor Lori Winner.

Winner says that doesn’t mean they all necessarily support the change, though she does. She did note that the general attitude on council is one toward change. She says there needs to be a figurehead in Pueblo that citizens can call.

Ralph Williams, president of insurance brokerage company HUB International, helped with the weak mayor initiative in 2009, but didn't push for it this year because he says he didn't want to confuse the public with two measures. He neither supports nor approves of the strong mayor initiative, because he thinks a weak mayor would better suit a city of Pueblo's size.

Should the strong mayor measure pass, the first mayoral election will be held in Nov. 2018, giving candidates a chance to campaign.

"Obviously you have to get the right people," Gradisar says. "We have a year to make sure we get the one."

Gradisar is hoping that the mayor’s proposed salary, $150,000 annually, will attract a wide variety of candidates, saying that the income was set that high on purpose, so that the mayor will not have to find another job. Gradisar has had complaints that the salary is too high for Pueblo, which only has a population of about 110,000 people and a median income less than $40,000 a year, according to the United States Census Bureau. The mayor of Colorado Springs is paid $103,370, even though he governs more than four times the number of people.

The committee didn’t take population into consideration when establishing a salary, Gradisar says, and instead focused on making the salary comparable to those of other leaders in Pueblo, most notably the presidents of Pueblo Community College and Colorado State University-Pueblo. Lexi Swearingen, a small business owner and also a member of the committee, says that the mayor would make around the same amount of money as the current city manager.

The Pueblo Association of Homebuilders and the Sierra Club of Pueblo both endorse 2A. In a letter to Gradisar, the Sierra Club said it believes an elected mayor can improve transparency and government responsiveness. However, neither club has given monetary donations, according to Gradisar. Most of the donations have been from individuals and the committee hasn’t purchased any media advertisements, relying instead on word-of-mouth, buttons and signs to spread the campaign’s message. According to Gradisar, the committee has spent all of the $7, 030 they received from donors.

But the word hasn’t gotten out to everyone. Margaret and Frank Grund, a couple who came to the press club meeting to find out more about the initiative, say they haven’t heard much about campaign. However, both do not see any downsides. Margaret Grund says she was surprised to find out that Pueblo didn’t have a mayor when she first moved to the city from Minneapolis. She thinks a mayor will hold city councilors more accountable and create some unity.

"I think it’s too easy for city council members to focus on their communities [districts] which is what they’re supposed to do. But then, who wins? You know, there’s always a kind of tension there," she says.
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Stephany Rose brings on new treasurer ahead of FEC deadline

Posted By on Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 10:21 AM

  • Stephany Rose for Congress
On Wednesday afternoon, we heard from Stephany Rose Spaulding — a Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives in Colorado’s 5th District. It's been a rough past few days for her, since, as the Independent reported, three volunteers, including the committee chair, abandoned Spaulding's campaign over the weekend. On the way out, they raised suspicions about the first-time candidate's handling of her campaign's finances. You can read about their allegations and overall rationale here.

News of their departure was "sudden" and "heart-breaking," says Spaulding, who counted at least one of those volunteers as a close friend. Spaulding is steadfast, however, in her position that the campaign's finances are fine shape.

"They wanted me to completely come off of the bank account and have no control over the finances ... no candidate worth their wisdom has or would do that," she told the Independent. "People are really investing their hope in this campaign and I am responsible for that."

Technically, the campaign's treasurer, Sarah McCollim is also responsible for that. According to multiple ex-volunteers, she's currently out of the country, even though the campaign is due to report its first quarter of receipts and disbursements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Sunday, Oct. 15.

Spaulding herself didn't know whether McCollim is in town or where she is, having not spoken with her for two weeks. (We've tried and failed to get in touch with her ourselves.) Spaulding says she's totally satisfied with McCollim's service to the campaign, but has nonetheless brought on a new treasurer/adviser/spokesperson.

That would be Jason Christiansen — a nonprofit consultant who currently lives in Colorado's 6th Congressional District. He last lived in this district in 2014. Notably, he also used to be a Republican, having worked for the former Congressman from Illinois, Don Manzullo, during the first half of his decade-long tenure in the House that ended in 2013.

So, why is Christiansen working for the other party now?

"Well, I switched my affiliation to Independent on January 20 of this year," he says. (Recall, this happened on that day.)

And, why work for this particular Democrat?

Practically speaking, because Carolyn Cathey, longtime Democrat, local realtor and one of Spaulding's most trusted advisers, asked him to. Philosophically speaking, "[Spaulding] is the kind of representation we need in this district," he says, adding that with so many volunteers ditching right before the campaign's first FEC filing deadline, "they needed some hands-on help from people with experience." 

Indeed, Christiansen's LinkedIn profile describes him as a "turnaround specialist" which, in his words, means "going into organizations that have issues and putting structures in place." In this case, he says, he's "making sure there's discipline with the money." That said, he reviewed the campaign's October Quarterly filing and found, besides a few minor, clerical omissions, everything to be in order. They'll submit their filing to the FEC on Sunday. It usually takes a few days for the agency to review and publish filings.

Meanwhile, Dawn Haliburton-Rudy, the former campaign committee chair behind the recent allegations, says she filed a complaint to the FEC on Wednesday. Find information on the adjudication process here.

Spaulding says that, contrary to the ex-volunteers' telling, she has been listening to experienced campaigners from the start. Because the campaign is such a grassroots operation, Spaulding says she didn't feel the need to disclose every conversation or relationship to every volunteer. Given that, she acknowledges the recent fallout could boil down to a miscommunication, especially since it went down over text message.

Still, Spaulding is feeling bolstered by the friends, supporters and advisers who have stuck by her.
"I've been able to see the real heart of this community," she says, adding that "this campaign from the beginning was doubted by a lot of people. They said I have no name recognition because I've never been a candidate before [so] I would be better suited to run for smaller office. But we've defied expectations."

Evidence of that, she says, is in the numbers. The campaign is preparing to report over $68,000 in receipts during their first quarter. And Spaulding says the majority of donors aren't "the usual suspects" but rather, "everyday people" who give in small amounts. There are no loans listed, she says, nor has she heard that anybody took out a second mortgage to donate. The donor who cashed in their life insurance policy, she says, is her sister.

"So they can drag my name through the mud, but we still have people willing to rise above for this district," Spaulding says, acknowledging that the name dragging tends only to get worse as campaigns move into general election season. And actually holding office? This may be good preparation.

The election is in 2018. Democrat Betty Field and Republicans Tom Strand, Owen Hill, Darryl Glenn and Bill Rhea (as of yesterday) are all also vying to unseat incumbent Congressman Doug Lamborn.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Jenkins buys RBD downtown properties

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 10:58 AM

This building at 101 W. Costilla St. recently sold to an entity controlled by developer David Jenkins, who's redeveloping the lower downtown area. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This building at 101 W. Costilla St. recently sold to an entity controlled by developer David Jenkins, who's redeveloping the lower downtown area.

Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, as previously planned, has sold three parcels in the lower downtown area to an entity controlled by David Jenkins.

The Aug. 23 sale, recorded on Sept. 28, included RBD's former headquarters building at 101 W. Costilla St., a parking lot at 111 W. Costilla St., and a vacant lot at 435 Sahwatch St.

Purchase price was $3,069,100. The appraised value, according to an appraiser hired by RBD, was $3,265,000, but that figure was reduced by 6 percent, which would have gone toward a real estate commission had either party used a Realtor, which they did not, according to minutes of the RBD commission's May 24 meeting.

It's worth noting the purchase price is 54 percent higher than the market value as stated in assessor records for the three parcels.

The tracts, purchased by BLH No. 2 LLC, an entity formed by Jenkins in 2014, are within the boundaries of two metro districts and a business improvement district Jenkins is forming. A court hearing on a petition to create the metro districts will be held Oct. 20.

Jenkins' company, Nor'wood Development Group, initially tried to form a partnership with Regional Building to develop the properties, but that fell through when the Independent raised questions about such a partnership's legality (News, March 29, 2017).

The transaction was recorded two days after City Council approved debt authority for the special districts up to $325 million on Sept. 26. It's the highest figure ever granted for special districts locally (News, Sept. 26, 2017).

The Regional Building Department's board of commissioners is comprised of Chair Tyler Stevens, the Green Mountain Falls Mayor Pro Tem; El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller, and Colorado Springs City Councilor Tom Strand.

The board decided not to put the properties up for competitive bid, says Regional Building Official Roger Lovell, because the Jenkins family offered a "community benefit."

"They are the master developer of that region downtown," Lovell tells the Indy in an interview. "They already owned 75 percent of the block [of Costilla] as well as a number of adjoining properties, and it made sense to proceed in that direction. Their offer was the appraised price."

Chris Jenkins, president of Nor'wood and David's son, couldn't be reached to comment about the company's plans for the land. The two properties are two to three blocks from the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, which is under construction at Vermijo Avenue and Sierra Madre Street.

Here's a map of the metro districts and business improvement district.
The properties acquired by David Jenkins from RBD are indicated with stars, while the oval represents the Olympic Museum. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • The properties acquired by David Jenkins from RBD are indicated with stars, while the oval represents the Olympic Museum.

RBD serves Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Fountain, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls, Monument and Palmer Lake. It's mission, as described on the website, is to "safeguard life and limb, health, property and public welfare by regulating and controlling the design, construction, quality of materials, use and occupancy of all buildings and structures within all zoned areas of El Paso County through the enforcement of minimum building code standards." RBD also inspects new construction, alterations and additions and licenses building contractors and registers state-licensed plumbing and electrical contractors working within its jurisdiction.
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Monday, October 9, 2017

Congressional candidate Stephany Rose abandoned by campaign leaders

Posted By on Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 7:01 PM

UPDATE: While Dawn Haliburton-Rudy listed several groups that she says will work together to search for a new candidate for the 5th Congressional District, leaders of those groups have since contacted the Independent to say they have not yet committed to such a process, and are in a wait-and-see mode.

——- ORIGINAL POST, MONDAY, 7:01 P.M. ——-

Stephany Rose speaks alongside Dreamers at a recent rally. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Stephany Rose speaks alongside Dreamers at a recent rally.

Over the weekend, the majority of Stephany Rose Spaulding’s campaign team jumped ship, saying they’re uncomfortable with how the campaign’s finances have been handled.

Rose, a pastor and professor, is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th Congressional District on the Democratic side. A political newbie, she officially announced her candidacy on July 3. This staff defection comes as the campaign readies its first campaign finance report.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) requires candidate committees close their books on the October Quarterly on Sep. 30. They have until Oct. 15 to file a report that itemizes receipts and disbursements. It’s a public document that looks like this.

Preparation for the filing is what brought some campaign members’ concerns to a fore. On Saturday, they released a joint statement:


Please note that Alan Pitts, Chandra Yvonne and I have resigned from Stephany Rose Spaulding's campaign for Congressional District 5. We have made this decision based on perceived financial improprieties committed by the candidate for this race. We, in no way shape or form, had anything to do nor did we have any knowledge of the current allegations.

Further, we demanded that the candidate provide us the financial information, which only she controls, to perform a forensic evaluation to thoroughly assess the level of potential improprieties. The candidate refused. As a result of the candidate's refusal, we determined, that it is in our best interest to resign. We wish the candidate all the best.


Dawn Haliburton-Rudy (campaign committee chair)
Alan Pitts (political strategist)
Chandra Yvonne (interim campaign developer)

Originally, that statement was also signed by Carolyn Cathey, a campaign advisor. But on Monday she distanced herself from the other three, releasing this statement instead.

Dear everyone,

To be clear I am still associated with the campaign in the same informal advisory role I was always in. A team of campaign experts have been deployed to complete the FEC filing due October 15th, this is a public document, and according to our team of experts including campaign finance advisors, the accounts have been set up correctly with them all leading back to the candidate as the law requires. The suspicions about possible irregularities are being looked at from all angles to include previous volunteers. all of us take this matter very seriously and I believe that numbers never lie...the money is accounted for and in its' proper place, as of writing this message, and the public filing will show that. Any impropriety will be handled with the full extent of the law and will be made public as the investigation allows. Trust is the most important asset a person can ever give... keeping that trust is the most important asset a candidate can ever possess. Thank you so much my friends.

Also on Monday, a draft press release from the campaign was leaked to the Indy.

The campaign Stephany Rose for Congress is excited about our candidate who continues to demonstrate the strength of her candidacy and leadership for our community. She has defied expectations with her first quarter fundraising, proving the seriousness as a contender to become the next U.S. House of Representatives Congressional leader for Colorado's Fifth District.

Unfortunately, trust and confidence of volunteers intimate to the campaign have been breached. In their efforts to engage in dirty tricks and orchestrating unethical meetings with potential Republican and Democratic opponents of Stephany Rose Spaulding, they have demonstrated a desire for politics as usual. This is not and never will be the spirit of Stephany Rose for Congress.

Stephany Rose for Congress is a financially and ethically sound campaign. And our candidate is surrounded by a team of trusted expert advisers dedicated to her mission of putting people over politics and transforming Colorado's Fifth Congressional District in all our best interests.

Neither Cathey nor Rose returned multiple voice mails and emails requesting their comment. We eagerly await their reply and will update this blog when we get it.

So, you might be asking yourself, what the heck is going on here?

Dawn Haliburton-Rudy feels deceived. - FILE PHOTO
  • file photo
  • Dawn Haliburton-Rudy feels deceived.

Haliburton-Rudy and Yvonne sat down with the Independent on Sunday to further explain themselves. Essentially, their misgivings are two-fold: they suspect potential campaign finance violations and they disagree with certain fundraising practices on ethical grounds.

The reason they’re suspicious, they say, is because the candidate was persistently “elusive” when it came to money matters. Rose allegedly kept the campaign’s finances quite close to the chest — withholding access to accounting spreadsheets, bank statements and the funds themselves. Tensions came to a head this weekend when members of the campaign requested that the candidate relinquish control of the finances. In a group text message thread, Rose replied that “No [I won’t] as the campaign’s finances are directly connected to my personal finances.”

A frustrated Yvonne asks, “If it was all above board, why make it off-limits to your team?”

The secretive dynamic isn’t new. Ethan Wade, former campaign manager (and Indy freelancer), says it’s one of the reasons he quit in early September. “It's pretty typical for campaigns to hire compliance consultants (lawyers and CPAs who specialize in FEC regulations) and the folks I was working with on Stephany's campaign flat out refused to hire one in favor of having the committee's treasurer work on the finances,” he writes to the Indy via Facebook messenger. “I was really against that decision since none of us had any expertise in FEC regulations, but they went on regardless.”

As committee chair, Haliburton-Rudy says that with the FEC deadline approaching, she won't rubber stamp a filing based on transactions she's never had the chance to review. “There were resources available to her but she wouldn’t accept any advisement,” she tells the Indy, adding that s
he intends to file a complaint to the FEC this week. That complaint will single out an alleged loan that the campaign received from Rose's childhood church in Chicago. Halliburton-Rudy believes, based on conversations with Rose, that the funds exceeded federal limits, were deposited improperly and came from a source that's barred from political contributions.

Again, Rose didn't return requests for comment on this story. 

FEC guidelines state that "The treasurer of a political committee is responsible for examining all contributions to make sure they are not illegal."

According to the “statement of organization” filing for “Stephany Rose for Congress,” the committee’s treasurer and custodian of records is Sarah Jeanne McCollim. McCollim is reportedly out of the country and has been for a few weeks now. We’ve reached out and will update when we hear back.

FEC guidelines also state that "The candidate may act as the committee’s treasurer."

Aside from their legal and financial skepticism, Haliburton-Rudy, Yvonne and Pitts all harbor an ethical skepticism that, they say, overshadows the rest. It stems from anecdotes they heard at multiple fundraisers. “[Rose] would tell everyone that she had at least two members of her church take out second mortgages to donate to her campaign,” Yvonne recounts. “And these were older people who need to be in a nursing home, you know. … And there was one woman, she told us, with stage-four cancer who cashed in her life insurance to give [to the campaign].”

As a licensed social worker, Haliburton-Rudy says this just didn’t sit right with her, regardless of the legality.

“It was like she was bragging about it,” she says. “And that’s not right.”

Yvonne, who lives on a fixed income because of a disability, elaborated: “If this is truly a campaign that ‘puts people over politics,’ we shouldn’t be willing to exploit vulnerable people just to get ahead.”

Both acknowledge that leaving the campaign doesn't bode well for progressives in the region. Congressional District 5, where just over 20 percent of the electorate is registered with the Democratic Party, is a long-shot race no matter how united against incumbent Doug Lamborn local Democrats may be.

The closest showing by a Democrat in recent memory was in 2014 when Irv Halter, a retired Air Force Major General, got 40 percent of the vote. In fact, voters in the 5th have never sent a Democrat to Congress. So, any drama or division puts the prospect of winning even further out of reach.

On the Republican side, Colorado Springs State Senator Owen Hill, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and Colorado Springs City Councilor Tom Strand are all challenging Doug Lamborn in the primary.

On the Democratic side, another newcomer to electoral politics, Betty Field, is gunning for the nomination. She's not rushing to judgement about the allegations against her opponent, saying, in general, that “people, not just candidates, make mistakes. No one’s perfect. People are forgiving … However, if you make a mistake with someone else’s money, that’s a much tougher thing to forgive.”

For her part, Field doesn’t touch her campaign’s finances, leaving it for her treasurer to handle. “I promised to run a clean and transparent campaign,” Field says. “There were no issues with my first filing and I don’t expect there to be any with the second.”

But the defectors from Rose’s campaign aren’t eager to join Field’s. Instead, Haliburton-Rudy says, they’re going to put their heads together with other local progressives to find the right candidate to run.

She expects the search committee to include, among others, representatives from Together for Colorado Springs (which she herself co-chairs, along with Indy founder John Weiss, for transparency), Unite Colorado Springs, Citizens for Hope and Pikes Peak Progressives. It’ll be more rigorous this time, she expects, meaning a longer questionnaire and in-person vetting. They’ll consider Democratic, Republican and Independent candidates. “We have to get serious. We can’t let this happen again,” she says.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

I-25 widening campaign raises $54K

Posted By on Thu, Oct 5, 2017 at 4:12 PM

  • Shutterstock.com
It's one of the more creative titles for a campaign committee in the local politico-sphere, and it's raised $54,000 on behalf of a measure on the Nov. 7 ballot that would authorize spending up to $10 million of Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority money to widen Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock.

The committee is titled "I-25 Shouldn't Be a Parking Lot."

The ballot measure wouldn't increase PPRTA taxes, but rather add the project to its project list. This is necessary, because previous taxing authority granted by voters assigned the money to specific projects.

The purpose of the committee, as stated on its organization filing is "to support the ballot issue in the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority district to add I-25 to the list of projects eligible for funding, and to support future local transportation initiatives for funding improvements to I-25 in Colorado."

Donors to the committee so far, according to filings with the Colorado Secretary of State, are:
Colorado Springs Forward, $7,500
Guy Childs of Spectranetics, $5,000
Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, $25,000
Olson Plumbing and Heating, $2,500
Schmidt Construction, $5,000
Altia Acquisitions Corp., $2,000
G.E. Johnson, $5,000
Mark Zeller and William Miller, both of XIO Technologies, $1,000 each

El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller says the committee's fundraising goal is $100,000. "We’re going to do radio. We're going to do a lot of web-based advertising," Waller says, adding the campaign also plans to buy space on two billboards.

The committee hadn't spent any money as of the Oct. 2 filing. The registered agent for the committee is Kristin Krause of Monument.

The next filing is due Oct. 16.
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Cory Gardner postpones town hall, heads to Puerto Rico instead

Posted By on Thu, Oct 5, 2017 at 1:54 PM

  • file photo
Cory Gardner is coming to town. Well, sometime, we hope. Yesterday, his office announced  the Republican U.S. Senator would be holding a town hall in Pueblo on Friday. Then, today, he walked that back in a tweet.
Here's the longer explanation, posted to his website.
Constituents have had a tough time pinning him down over the past half year, most notably during the debate over various versions of Republicans' "repeal and replace" proposals. He did appear in the Springs in August.
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Colorado Ethics Watch announces closure effective December 31

Posted By on Thu, Oct 5, 2017 at 11:56 AM

Luis Toro: Closing Colorado Ethics Watch on Dec. 31.
  • Luis Toro: Closing Colorado Ethics Watch on Dec. 31.
Colorado Ethics Watch will close its doors on Dec. 31 due to funding difficulties, executive director Luis Toro tells the Indy.

"We’ve always been teetering on the brink of extinction for the whole time, and it finally happened," he says.

The agency, who serves as a watchdog over various government activities, opened on Aug. 1, 2006. It's been funded largely through national grants.

Toro says while he hates to see the office close, other groups have stepped forward to promote transparency and ethics in government.

"The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition has been doing a lot of great work on transparency, on open meetings and open records," he says. "I have confidence they’ll be up to the task."

In addition, citizens themselves have become more active. "Other people are stepping up and filing complaints," he says. "A record number of complaints were filed with the state Ethics Commission this year, and we didn’t file any of them. It’s not the case that if Ethics Watch doesn’t do it, nobody will."

Ethics Watch has three staffers, including Toro, a researcher and a part-time communications director.

About funding, Toro says, "It’s been harder to justify getting those grants to be here full-time when other people are starting to step up and do this work."

He noted the non-profit decided to announce its closing now, because it's been engaged in reviewing proposed legislative bills and "we figured we’re going to have to tell people when they approach us on bills."

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

D-11 and stormwater issue to be discussed at Oct. 17 forum

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 5:09 PM

City stormwater manager Rich Mulledy stands amid one of the "urban canyons" created by stormwater erosion across the city. This setting is in Pine Creek. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • City stormwater manager Rich Mulledy stands amid one of the "urban canyons" created by stormwater erosion across the city. This setting is in Pine Creek.

Two key ballot measures will be debated on Oct. 17 at a public forum at the MCI/Verizon Building, located at 2424 Garden of the Gods Road. The forum will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Mayor John Suthers will promote the city's proposed stormwater fee. If 2A is approved, it would require every household to pay $5 a month on their water bill to fund stormwater projects, and owners of nonresidential property to pay $30 per acre per month. Property owners of developed land larger than five acres would pay fees set by the city’s stormwater manager, based on impervious surface.

Taking the "vote no" position will be political strategist Laura Carno, who's mounting an opposition effort.

In addition, Lauren Hugg with Friends of D11, will promote the virtues of Colorado Springs School District 11's mill levy override measure, which aims to raise about $42 million in property taxes. The district hasn't had a tax increase since 2000, while districts throughout the metro area — such as Academy District 20, Falcon District 49 and Cheyenne Mountain District 12 — have had several. Who will debate the "anti" position on the D11 measure hasn't been determined.

The forum is being sponsored by the Leadership Pikes Peak Alumni Association, Colorado Springs Rising Professionals, the Independent and the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Las Vegas terror attack claims a Colorado Springs local

Posted By on Tue, Oct 3, 2017 at 9:36 PM

News broke last night that a Colorado Springs local, Christopher Roybal, is among those who won't be returning home from the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas this weekend. He was killed when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, holed up on the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel with a stockpile of fully legal, converted-to-automatic rifles, rained bullets down on the crowd gathered for a country rock concert on Sunday night.

According to multiple outlets including the Denver Post, Roybal, who worked in the Springs but recently moved to Aurora, had prior war-zone experience, having served a tour in Afghanistan while in the Navy. To come home only to be murdered on domestic soil makes the 28-year-old's July 18 Facebook post poignant to the point of prescient.

A candlelight vigil was held in Acacia Park at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 3 to commemorate Roybal and the other 50+ victims of the terrorist attack.

Mayor John Suthers put out a statement about Roybal's death. “Our hearts go out to Christopher’s family, friends and his co-workers at Crunch Fitness as well as the military community, as we grieve this loss," he said.

Other locals have piped up too, including the notorious firearms dealer known as Dragonman who sells weapons like the ones used by the now-dead gunman.

And lastly, Laurie Works, a local survivor of gun violence and trauma counselor-in-training, penned this piece for Huffington Post that outlines practical ways to support victims in the aftermath of mass shootings. Here's a snippet she wrote for victims' loved ones, survivors and everyone else grieving over the tragedy: "If you are feeling fragile and jumpy, it’s okay to get help. If you are feeling frozen or numb, it’s okay to get help. Tell close family and friends what is going on. Ask for support. Find a good therapist. The better support you have, the more likely you will be to emotionally recover."

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Charae McDaniel named city CFO

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 12:59 PM

  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
The City of Colorado Springs has a new chief financial officer, pending City Council's approval at their Oct. 10 meeting.

A Sept. 28 news release announced that Charae McDaniel, currently the city's budget manager, has been selected.

What does the city's CFO do? According to the release, "The chief financial officer (CFO) reports to the chief of staff/chief administrative officer, and is responsible for all accounting and treasury functions. This position directs the financial functions of the City including budget, fiscal and strategic planning, all aspects of accounting, sales tax collections, parking enterprise, grant management, and investments."

Further, the CFO "directs the development of a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), district and enterprise financial statements, annual budget, strategic plan, and all cost allocations."

McDaniel has been performing some of those duties since April, when former CFO Kara Skinner resigned. As the Indy first reported then, Skinner took a job in the City of Boulder's finance department.

In the release, McDaniel said she's "honored to serve ... our great city."

The Mayor commented on the promotion too, saying, “Charae has worked in City Finance for over a decade, most recently serving in the deputy role. Her abundance of institutional knowledge and experience in effectively managing the City’s budget has prepared her for the CFO role.  The City is very fortunate to retain and promote someone with her background and is confident that this promotion will provide for a seamless transition.” 

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Bike sharing program to be launched by Downtown Partnership

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 12:20 PM

Colorado Springs' Downtown Partnership has another project coming down the pike.

The Partnership's CEO and President, Susan Edmondson,
announced plans for a public bike sharing project, PikeCycle, during the Partnership's annual breakfast on Sept. 28, saying it was “fine time” Colorado Springs started a program. The bikes will be available for rental and return (to "ports") in and around downtown starting in spring.

Holly Kortum, executive director for Kaiser Permanente in Southern Colorado, which is sponsoring the project, highlighted how the plan aligns with the vision of Kaiser, and was hopeful that it could bring about positive outcomes.

“It improves the air quality, it reduces carbon emissions,
it supports and enhances our growing tourism, and it embraces for us our Olympic City USA brand as a fit, active community," she said.

(Disclosure: The Independent and our sister paper, the Colorado Springs Business Journal, are sponsors of the bike share program as well.)

The project, still in it’s infancy, is slated to start offering bikes in April 2018, with a plan to put over 200 bikes and 364 docks in the Legacy Loop area encompassing downtown, Colorado College and the Olympic Training Center.

Those who want to use the bikes will need to pay. PikeCycle rental membership plans will range from one-day to annual use. All bikes are equipped with GPS technology to keep track of their location, so riders don’t have to worry about returning the bikes to specific ports.

But before the program launches, there are a few kinks to work out. Additional sponsorships are being negotiated, as well as a protocol for repairs. One Downtown Partnership spokesperson says that B-Cycle, the company who will supply the bikes for PikeCycle, will help employ staff for local maintenance. B-Cycle, which also has projects in Denver and Boulder, gives a product warranty to clients, but it excludes theft, vandalism and misuse.

In order to keep cyclists safe on the road and in construction zones, more continuous bike lanes will be created as the project expands.

Projected PikeCycle regions, separated into Phase 1 and Phase 2 - COURTESY OF DOWNTOWN COLORADO SPRINGS PARTNERSHIP
  • Courtesy of Downtown Colorado Springs Partnership
  • Projected PikeCycle regions, separated into Phase 1 and Phase 2

Here's the full press release on the announcement and the Downtown Partnership's Annual Breakfast:

Dan Robertson, Steve Schleiker and Ladyfingers Letterpress recognized with awards

Colorado Springs, CO - A before-the-trend developer, the El Paso County assessor and a creative Downtown business were honored today by Downtown Partnership with Downtown Star awards at the annual Downtown Partnership Breakfast. Now in its 20th year, the annual breakfast was attended by a sold-out crowd of 700 business, community and civic leaders. Remarks by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers were followed by Downtown Star awards presented in three categories: individual, civil servant, and business or organization, to those who have made outstanding commitments to a thriving Downtown. The event culminated with an announcement that Downtown Partnership intends to launch a bike share program next year.

The new PikeCycle bike share program is scheduled to launch in spring 2018. Bike sharing is the fastest growing form of transportation in the world, and PikeCycle title sponsor Kaiser Permanente was on hand to excite the crowd about the project. The first phase of PikeCycle will serve the entire Legacy Loop area, which includes 46,000 households and encircles greater Downtown Colorado Springs. Downtown Partnership CEO Susan Edmondson told the crowd that additional sponsorships are essential to ensure that PikeCycle becomes a reality. More on PikeCycle and sponsorship opportunities can be found online at www.DowntownCS.com/bikeshare.

Also at the annual breakfast, the 2017 Downtown Star Awards were presented:

Individual: Nearly two decades ago Dan Robertson saw the beauty in older buildings such as the Daniels building and the Giddings building and began converting the upper floors to residential units. It was a gamble to create the first lofts Downtown. Exposing the brick walls and retaining the wood floors and wooden beams lent character and beauty to each unit and planted a seed in our urban environment for loft living. From the Daniels Lofts to the Giddings Lofts, the Carriage House Lofts and – newly opened this year – the Bijou Lofts, Robertson continues to lead the charge on mixed-use development right in the heart of Downtown.

Civil Servant: County assessor Steve Schleiker may not have the most exhilarating of roles, but his is a vital part of a well-functioning community. Schleiker and his team work to take the emotion out of numbers, focus on proactively educating citizens – clearing the fog from often complicated state laws and processes – and respond quickly with a positive, helpful approach. Schleiker and his team also were recognized for the newly revamped county assessor website that makes public data user-friendly, business-friendly and resident-friendly, providing valuable information for investors looking to do business throughout the county.

Business or Organization: Morgan Calderini and Arley-Rose Torsone, founders of Ladyfingers Letterpress, were recognized for their business, which “goes beyond simply selling a product or making a product to fully embracing and enhancing their place in the community.” Their award-winning stationery is sold across the country and beyond, but more than that, they have created a gallery space in their store, host workshops and classes and serve as a community gathering place. This year, they rallied neighboring businesses to improve the business facades – applying for a Downtown Development Authority grant and project managing the entire process – to paint, update and create new signage for three businesses on their block. In addition, they hosted a prize-giveaway trip TO Colorado Springs, offering the all-expense paid trip as a contest to their distributors, “because we want them to know how great our community is, too.”

About Downtown Partnership
Downtown Partnership is the lead nonprofit organization ensuring that Downtown Colorado Springs serves as the economic, cultural, and civic heart of the city. For more information visit www.downtowncs.com, or contact Downtown Colorado Springs at 719.886.0088.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Women sought gun permits at a higher rate than men in El Paso County

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 11:09 AM

A citizen gets in a little range practice at Whistling Pines Gun Club. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A citizen gets in a little range practice at Whistling Pines Gun Club.
In the Sept. 27 edition of the Indy, we report that those with concealed carry permits has grown by 100 percent since 2012 in El Paso County.

Worthy of note is the growth of those local permit holders who are women. From the end of 2012 to June this year, the number of females with permits in El Paso County increased by 53.9 percent, compared to the increase in men holding permits of 35.9 percent.

Back in 2012, 8,193 women had concealed carry permits in the county, while as of June, that number was 12,610, according to data provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

The biggest surge in total permits in the county, 41.8 percent, came in 2013 after the Aurora theater shooting and the slaughter of 20 children and six staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, both in 2012. It's worth nothing that 2013 also was the year that gun control measures became effective statewide on July 1.

The second biggest surge in the county, 15.9 percent, came in 2015 after two shooting incidents here in Colorado Springs — the Halloween shooting by Noah Harpham and Robert Dear's rampage at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

This data comes from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and shows concealed carry permits issued in 2013.
  • This data comes from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and shows concealed carry permits issued in 2013.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Veterans cemetery contract awarded

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 5:10 PM

Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Arlington National Cemetery.
After many years of trying to get something going in the way of a veterans cemetery here, it looks like things are taking shape.

As we reported in 2013, the land has been purchased for some time. It lies southeast of the city, near Marksheffel and Drennan roads — a 10-minute drive from the Colorado Springs Airport.

Now we find out that a construction contract has been awarded to a Flemington, N.J., company — G&C Fab-Con, LLC.

The $31.8 million contract calls for the cemetery to be completed in 2019, according to a news release from Sen. Michael Bennet, which follows:

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet issued the following statement in response to the announcement that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has awarded a construction contract for the new Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs.

"Starting construction is a welcome step in the long wait that veterans and their families have endured to lay their loved ones to rest closer to home,” Bennet said. “We are grateful that this cemetery will serve an area with one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the nation.”

The $31,843,000 construction contract was awarded to G&C Fab-Con, LLC, a service disabled veteran-owned small business. The cemetery is scheduled for full completion in 2019 and will develop approximately 13,500 internment sites.

Bennet has worked for eight years to establish the 374-acre cemetery, which will serve roughly 95,000 veterans. Currently, the nearest cemetery for veterans and their families is more than 70 miles away. Bennet secured the funding necessary for the project in Fiscal Year 2017.

Bennet worked with former Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Doug Lamborn to bring a national cemetery to southern Colorado. In 2009, Bennet sponsored legislation with Udall to create the cemetery, and in 2010, the President's budget request included language that reduced the population threshold used to determine where new national veterans cemeteries could be built from 170,000 to 80,000 veterans living within 75 miles of a potential site. This language, which followed a meeting Bennet held with then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, allowed the VA to build a cemetery in southern Colorado. In October 2013, following a rigorous review process that included public meetings and a public comment period, the VA announced it had agreed to purchase land for this preferred site in Colorado Springs.

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