Heart bypass 

Last week's cover story ("Close to the Heart," June 22) brought mostly anonymous -- and mostly positive -- feedback from the physician community that works at Memorial Hospital. But starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Indy editorial staff fielded several phone calls from Memorial personnel who were upset because they believed the Independent was pulled from the racks in anticipation of a story critical of hospital administration.

But hospital spokesperson Rita Burns said the hospital administration had nothing to do with any missing newspapers. "The racks may have been emptied, but by individuals, not by the administration," she said.

"These [papers] went especially quickly, or went more quickly than usual probably because word had spread that the story was about Memorial," said Burns. "Maybe a few people took up a stack to distribute to their departments, but we certainly did not remove any from the racks."

In response to the story, heart surgeon Joel Morris' attorney faxed the Indy what he described as a "correction" regarding a point alleged in court pleadings by Morris' adversary, Dr. James Albert.

In the court papers, Albert complains that Morris unfairly accused him of denying Morris the ability to see his dying father, by refusing cross-coverage of Morris' patients. The accusations were allegedly made on Channel 11 News.

But Morris' lawyer, Thomas McMahon, says Morris never accused Albert of keeping him from his dying dad. To back up his point, McMahon faxed two transcripts of the Channel 11 broadcasts.

Indeed, the transcripts show that Morris' claims -- as reported by anchor Eric Singer, and reporter Susan Suh -- focus on the hospital, not on Albert.

Here's Singer introducing the story: "Dr. Joel Morris says the hospital cost him his last chance to talk to his dying father. ... He claims Memorial held him prisoner in Colorado Springs under an unfair on-call policy."

And later, reporter Suh: "Dr. Morris says Memorial officials refused to bend on their on-call policy even as his father was dying."

What did Morris himself in fact say?

"I lost the last chance I will ever have on this earth of talking to my dad in person," he told his interviewers. "That I went down to see my dad on a ventilator in a coma and then a week later, I went back for his funeral. And I was very, very close to my father."

So Morris didn't explicitly name Albert on Channel 11, according to these transcripts. But Morris' own lawsuit (which Singer and Suh were reporting on) names Albert as a defendant and it mentions, several times, the idea that "Dr. Morris was refused permission by the hospital to leave the Colorado Springs area in order to visit him before he died."

Other documents filed in the case, as well as comments made in interviews with this reporter, clearly show that Morris considers Albert to be a key co-conspirator in keeping him from seeing his dying dad.

So is Morris' legal eagle simply parsing words in order to back out of Albert's defamation accusation? No doubt that will be another question that the courts will decide as Morris' legal fight with Memorial continues. Stay tuned.

Annexation has become a major issue in Manitou Springs ever since reports of the proposed development of Red Rock Canyon and citizen opposition to the plan hit the news ("Manitou residents fight off expansion," June 15). Zydeco, a New Mexico developer, has proposed that the city annex 787 acres in Red Rock Canyon on which a giant residential and commercial development would be built.

On July 6, the Manitou Springs City Council will vote on an ordinance that will require annexation of any property three acres or larger to be put to a citizen vote.

The Council ordinance was prompted by two citizen petition drives that would have placed that requirement on the November 6 ballot in Manitou. A majority vote would then make the measure law.

Manitou city attorney, Alan Jensen, met with Manitou citizens Tobe Easton, Rick Laurenzi and Bill Koerner to hammer out a mutually-acceptable ordinance on June 14. It was given a first reading by City Council at their June 20 meeting and approved 4-0.

Easton reports that Zydeco consultant Tom Kay contacted her to talk about the petition referendums. "He told me of a different proposal they're considering for fewer dwellings, and offices instead of businesses. He asked me whether, if they come up with a proposal like that, the people might feel differently about annexation.

"I told him," Easton said, "that I didn't know. The voters would have to decide that."

Asked if he could give the Indy an idea of what he is proposing, Kay said "I talked to her (Easton) about a myriad of things, but I didn't talk to her about that, and none of it was for the record. I'm not giving you any statements for print," upon which he hung up the phone.

Rick Laurenzi, author of one of the two citizen petition drives that prompted the City Council ordinance, said, "There's not a snowball's chance in hell that this would be approved even if it's smaller.

"We have 2,200 houses in Manitou," he added. "If the only thing they did was the total office and retail space they proposed to City Council, they'd have something the size of Citadel Mall. Visualize that with the acres of parking that would require. They think they're going to construct a couple square blocks of Manhattan up there."

Back in April, Richard Yates outlined a project to the Manitou council that included 512,000 square feet of retail space and 1.39 million square feet of office space. Kay now says that those figures were merely conceptual. He said that Zydeco has no idea what the project will actually look like at this time.


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