News briefs from the Front Range

FAC names Stepleton as acting CEO

Jon Stepleton, a familiar presence at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, was named Monday to serve as the FAC's acting chief executive officer, filling the vacancy left by president/CEO Michael De Marsche.

Stepleton plans on being the acting CEO only through September as the FAC seeks a longer-term interim replacement. A six-year member of the FAC board of trustees, he filled the same temporary role for eight months in 2003 prior to De Marsche's arrival. Stepleton formerly worked as managing editor, editor and associate publisher at The Gazette.

"I see two priorities," Stepleton said of his upcoming stint. "One is making sure during the interim period that nothing gets derailed that the management team's working on, both in the short and longer term. Second, hopefully I can be a source of reassurance to the community that the interim period is going to work for the Fine Arts Center. We have to keep all the pieces in motion membership, underwriting for major exhibits upcoming, and lots more on the horizon."

Stepleton, also serving as executive director of the Pikes Peak Community College Foundation, said he was asked to stay at the FAC for the entire 6-18 months expected to find a permanent president/CEO, "but I can't do that based on other commitments. Hopefully I can give the transition group another month to find the right person for that role."

After the FAC opened its new addition Aug. 4, gallery attendance for the featured Weisman exhibition's first three weeks was 4,423 (not counting 677 at FAC Modern during the same period), second only to the Dale Chihuly show of 2005 (7,312 after three weeks) in the museum's history. The grand-opening events from Aug. 1-5 totaled 2,588 attendees. RR

New policy says city can't discriminate against gays

Colorado Springs city government won't be allowed to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation anymore.

The city changed its discrimination policy recently to adhere to a new state law pushed through by Gov. Bill Ritter which banned discrimination against gays in workplaces throughout the state, including local governments. Only religious organizations were allowed to deviate from the law's provisions.

The change ends a debate that is over a decade old. The Colorado Springs city council has rejected past proposals to include gays in its discrimination policy.

El Paso County has not yet changed its policy on discrimination, but is working on revisions. JAS

City releases Cimarron Bridge plans

Colorado Springs city staffers have released their plans for replacing the Cimarron Bridge, after City Council went along with the staff proposal to close the bridge entirely from October to May.

A report released Tuesday confirmed the bridge will close soon after the new Interstate 25/Bijou Street exit opens, as soon as Oct. 1. Colorado Avenue, which also will share some of the diverted traffic from Cimarron, will be back to its full four-lane capacity by mid-November.

The work on Cimarron Bridge will allow for the opening of four lanes with no restrictions by next spring, either April or May according to city officials. Sidewalks and bike lanes will be done by fall 2008, and by then the bridge will also have six traffic lanes, three on each side. RR

Supermax faces staffing crisis

A state legislator and leaders of a prison union renewed calls this week that Colorado's Supermax prison, which holds the Unabomber and other high-profile killers and terrorists, is dangerously understaffed.

Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, says tension between staff and inmates at the prison is at an "all-time high," the Denver Post reports.

Supermax, southwest of Colorado Springs in Florence, holds the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and the 1996 Olympics and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, among others.

Union officials say the prison has 180 officers to fill 230 spots, with 20 officers having left since January and only 10 new hires, the Post reports. AL

Denver caught in middle on marijuana enforcement issue

Denver city leaders might not relish the upcoming vote on whether to make marijuana-possession the city's "lowest law-enforcement priority," but they apparently like a deal to trash the initiative even less.

Citizens for a Safer Denver, which had collected more than 10,000 signatures to put the initiative on the November ballot, offered to withdraw the measure if city leaders agreed to lay off marijuana users during next year's Democratic National Convention and publicly state the drug is safer than alcohol.

"We don't have to have this on the ballot if they would be willing to work with us," says Mason Tvert, leader of a group that was also behind a 2005 city initiative that aimed to make possession of small amounts of marijuana legal in Denver. Although the initiative passed, city police continue to enforce the state law against marijuana possession, and a similar statewide initiative failed last year.

Some city leaders called Tvert's offer a publicity stunt. Regardless of their view, they also said it was too late in the process for the initiative to be withdrawn. AL

Suit against CC fails

Former Colorado College Spanish professor Kevin O'Connor lost his suit against CC Monday.

O'Connor claimed he was wrongfully terminated after the college ignored his concerns about asbestos, put him on probation in violation of college rules, and tried to force him to teach a "substandard" program.

A jury, however, found that the college had followed proper procedures when it fired O'Connor. O'Connor may appeal. JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon and J. Adrian Stanley.


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