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Charitable breezes 

Mayor donates alcohol to nonprofits

click to enlarge An artists rendering of Lionel Rivera and the three - bottles of Bacardi Island Breeze sent to him as a publicity - stunt. - PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SALLY PIETTE

Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera recently received three bottles of a new low-calorie rum, but says he has no plans to mix mojitos or Cuba libres with the stash. Instead, he says, he's giving the goods to local charities.

The rum arrived at Rivera's office earlier this month, a gift from The Baddish Group, a New York-city based publicity firm.

According to Dustin Sveum, a spokesman for the firm, Rivera was targeted because he's a high-profile leader of one of the country's healthiest cities. Men's Health magazine recently designated Colorado Springs as the nation's sixth-fittest city.

"We wanted to celebrate by sending the mayor a shipment of rum," Sveum said, referring to Bacardi's low-calorie Island Breeze, which his firm is promoting.

Under city law, elected officials and appointees may receive gifts valued at $25 or less. The 750-millileter bottles of rum are worth about $11.99 each, or roughly $36 total, according to online liquor promotions.

Gifts worth more than $25 must be handed over to a charity or declined.

Rivera is donating the rum to nonprofits. One bottle was given to the Interfaith Hospitality Network, to be auctioned at a fundraiser. The network provides short-term housing to homeless families.

"We thought it added some class and dignity" to Interfaith's ninth annual Hearts for the Homeless fundraiser, says the organization's co-executive director, Tom Agnew.

Rivera's donated bottle was auctioned among 130-plus items, including wine, Agnew said.

Rivera says the rum probably is the most valuable gift he's received since coming to City Council in 1997.

It is impossible to independently determine how many gifts the mayor and other city officials accept each year, because they are not required to report gifts.

Rivera says he once was offered Colorado Avalanche box seats from Qwest executives. He says he declined the hockey tickets because of their value. Even if he could accept such gifts, he says he would hesitate because they could create the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"I think all of us have to be careful about taking gifts," he says.

Rivera has, however, accepted pens and pottery from sister cities. On two occasions, Nuevo Casas Grandes, a sister city in Mexico, sent him tequila. Rivera says he donated the tequila to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Colorado Springs.

"I don't like tequila," he says.

Michael de Yoanna

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