Friday, February 16, 2018

UPDATE: Remaining charges against Maketa dropped

Posted By on Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 4:25 PM

Prosecutors have asked that the remaining charges against Terry Maketa be dropped, FOX21NEWS reports.

The decision by prosecutors to dismiss the remaining charges, following two trials in which jurors found Maketa not guilty of certain charges and hung on others, means that the former El Paso County sheriff will walk free.

——- ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 7, 2:25 P.M. ——-
Former Sheriff Terry Maketa and his wife, Vicki, arriving for his trial in late January. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Former Sheriff Terry Maketa and his wife, Vicki, arriving for his trial in late January.

In about three weeks, we'll find out if the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office wants to try former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa a third time. A status conference is set for Feb. 27.

The first two times Maketa was tried, the trial ended in hung juries and acquittals, most recently on Feb. 5 when the jury couldn't agree on charges of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion and acquitted him on charges of official misconduct.

When we reported that in this week's Indy, we hadn't heard back from Maketa about the verdict, so we couldn't include his comment in that report.

But we've since gotten a text message from the three-term former sheriff, who says:
We are happy with the outcome. It has been a long process. We felt very good with the official misconduct allegations [verdicts] and knew the evidence was on our side. It appears for a second time the burden for conviction was not met on the other 2 charges. As with last time, we will have to see what the next step is.
For a take on how the recent mistrial might figure into the 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler's political future, check out this story. An assistant, Mark Hurlbert, prosecuted the case.

The indictment against Maketa, issued in May 2016 — 17 months after he left office, also included two other officers who served during his administration.

Former Undersheriff Paula Presley's trial is slated for late July, while former sheriff's Commander John San Agustin had charges dismissed last year.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Colorado's Amendment 71 violates the U.S. Constitution, federal judge says

Posted By on Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 11:54 AM

  • Shutterstock
Proponents of Amendment 71, which was approved by voters in 2016 and makes it harder for citizens to petition measures onto the ballot, were dealt a setback on Valentine's Day when a federal judge said one provision violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides for equal protection under the law. That's because the amendment doesn't treat every citizen petition signature the same.

The idea of Amendment 71 was to prevent the state constitution from being endlessly amended by various ballot measures petitioned onto the ballot. The amendment required signatures from every senate district, as well as a number equal to 5 percent of votes cast in the secretary of state race in the previous election. Before, in order to petition an initiative on the ballot, a campaign had to collect a certain number of signatures, but it didn't matter where in the state the signatures came from.

The lawsuit was filed by interests behind Amendment 69, a measure that would have created statewide universal health care and went down in flames in 2016 by an 80-20 margin. The same interests now want to mount a new initiative in coming years.

Judge William Martinez on Feb. 14 denied the state's motion to dismiss and further ordered the state to show cause by March 9 "why the court should not enter final judgment against it and a permanent injunction against enforcing subsection 2.5 [the requirement to collect signatures from every senate districts] to the extent there exists a material difference in voter population between state senate districts."

Martinez also noted that "the Court concludes that Plaintiffs' have demonstrated a Fourteenth Amendment violation ...." and that "thus, part of the new amendment process is constitutionally infirm." He noted that because the plaintiffs hadn't filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, he's giving the state more time to "show cause why final judgment and a permanent injunction should not enter."

It's unclear how the ruling might affect the 2018 election, but it could open the door for petitioning measures onto the ballot without having to meet the "senate district" hurdle, making it easier to mount ballot questions.

Many elected officials across the state endorsed Amendment 71, including Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, who appeared in broadcast commercials promoting a "yes" vote.

Asked to comment on the ruling, Suthers says via email, "If Judge Martinez does not change his ruling after SOS [Secretary of State, the defendant] input, I’ll look forward to review by the 10th Circuit [Court of Appeals]."

Meantime, Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care issued this statement on the ruling:
DENVER, COLORADO: A Federal judge on Wednesday gave the Colorado Secretary of State until March 9 to show that a section of Amendment 71 is constitutional, or he'll rule it's not.

Passed by voters in 2016, Amendment 71 made it hugely expensive to impossible for grassroots groups to change the state constitution. It required at least 2 percent of the registered voters in each of Colorado's 35 senate districts to sign a petition to amend the state constitution for that amendment to make the ballot.

It also mandated that Colorado voters had to approve any amendment that added to the constitution by a supermajority of 55 percent instead of a majority of 50.01 percent. It left intact the 50.01 percent requirement to delete an amendment from the constitution.

In April, attorney Ralph Ogden filed suit against Amendment 71 as unconstitutional in part because it allows the votes in any one senate district to bear heavier "weight" than votes in the 34 other districts combined, violating the one-person, one-vote rule protected by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

If proponents of a ballot initiative couldn't gather signatures from 2 percent of the registered voters in any one of the 35 senate districts, it would prevent the measure from ever appearing on the ballot, even if the vast majority of Colorado voters want it and would vote for it.

On Wednesday, Federal Judge William J. Martinez agreed, throwing out a motion to dismiss the case filed by the defendant, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. At the same time, Judge Martinez ordered the secretary of state to show cause by March 9th why the judge should not enter both a final judgment in the plaintiffs' favor and issue a permanent injunction barring the secretary from enforcing the unconstitutional part of the amendment.

He also requested Williams' office provide any info on upcoming 2018 election dates and deadlines that might be affected by the ballot initiative process.

Before 2016, 5 percent of Colorado voters from anywhere in the state had to sign a petition in order to place an initiative on the ballot. Getting that 5 percent signed was difficult, with just one-third of all citizen ballot initiative attempts over the last 10 years getting on the ballot. According to the plaintiffs' complaint, the 2 percent requirement would nearly triple the cost of collecting the required number of signatures, making it impossible for most citizens' groups to place their ideas on the ballot and ensuring that only the wealthiest organizations could do so.

"We're elated Amendment 71's unconstitutional requirements are being thrown out," said Sara Wright, director of communications for the Foundation. "Passed following a $3 million campaign funded by special interests like the oil and gas industry, Amendment 71 aimed to curb citizen groups seeking to change Colorado law in the public interest."
The plaintiffs in the case include William Semple, as an individual Colorado voter; Cooperate Colorado, the nonprofit group that garnered enough signatures to place initiative #20 on the ballot as Amendment 69; ColoradoCareYes, the nonprofit issue committee that unsuccessfully campaigned for ColoradoCare's passage in 2016; and Dan Hayes, a proponent for initiative #4 "Limit on Local Housing Growth."

Both Semple and Ogden serve on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care.

The Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care promotes a not-for-profit health care financing system at the state and national level that pays for comprehensive, high quality, affordable health care services for everyone. 
Read the ruling here:

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

County pension plan won’t pay if an officer is killed on duty, but that could change

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 4:43 PM

Detective Micah Flick was killed Feb. 5. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • Detective Micah Flick was killed Feb. 5.
The grieving family of fallen El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick will need more then a shoulder to cry on in the coming years. With a breadwinner gone, Flick’s wife and 7-year-old twins will need money. But some government programs are more generous than others with the survivors of fallen officers.

Let’s start with the El Paso County Retirement Plan. Its death benefit — a relative pittance at $3,000 — is only paid to survivors of retirees. In addition, the plan doesn’t pay pension benefits to survivors until the beneficiary’s 55th birthday at the earliest (regardless of whether the beneficiary is alive), which means Flick’s family has to wait 21 years to collect monthly benefits. Notably, nothing in the plan’s rules makes a special consideration, or even a mention, of those killed on the job.

Flick was shot and killed on Feb. 5 while trying to tackle a suspected vehicle thief in a parking lot at Murray Boulevard and Galley Road as other officers closed in. Flick, 34, had been with the Sheriff’s Office for 11 years.

Asked why fallen officers couldn’t receive benefits, the retirement plan board’s chair, County Treasurer Mark Lowderman, says the issue hasn’t come up. The last sheriff’s deputy to die in the line of duty was Hugh Martin, who was killed by a gunshot in the chest in April 1992 during a raid on the home of a drug dealer.

But Lowderman says the board will discuss amending the rules for its plan, which covers employees of the county, El Paso County Public Health, the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Pikes Peak Library District, at its Feb. 26 meeting. “It’s a conversation we need to have,” Lowderman says, noting the death benefit amount has remained unchanged for at least 23 years.

“It’s sad that it takes a tragedy like that (Flick’s death) to spur the conversation, but it’s not something you think about in day-to-day business,” he says. “It would be my hope if that’s the way the board wants to go, we could certainly do something retroactive and include Deputy Flick’s family.”

A sheriff's cruiser was parked in front of the Sheriff's Office in honor of Flick. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • A sheriff's cruiser was parked in front of the Sheriff's Office in honor of Flick.
While the county doesn’t currently offer much to fallen officers through its plan, the survivors of a Colorado Springs Police Officer killed on the job would receive 70 percent of the officer’s base pay through the Fire and Police Pension Association, as well as tuition and room and board for an officer’s dependents to obtain a bachelor’s degree at a state school. And while the city carries group life insurance on all employees, the county offers the plans to employees at an extra charge.

While the county still needs to sort out what it may offer the Flick family, they will likely get help from another government program. Workers’ Compensation, compulsory in Colorado, generally pays a benefit of 66 2/3 percent of the deceased employee’s average weekly wages to beneficiaries. The spouse receives benefits for life, unless she remarries, in which case a two-year lump sum is payable upon remarriage. Children also receive some compensation until age 18, or beyond age 18 if physically or mentally disabled, or until age 21 if full-time students. Burial expenses of up to $7,000 also are paid by Workers’ Compensation.

The Flicks are also likely eligible for a federal program that pays survivors of fallen law enforcement officers and other first responders killed in the line of duty a one-time benefit of $350,079. The Department of Justice’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program provides death and education benefits to survivors, as well as disability benefits to officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty.

The program dates to 1976 when Congress enacted the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act to ease economic burdens of families who lost an officer in the line of duty. The act has since been amended to cover rescue squads, ambulance crews, firefighters and chaplains. The payment, which is adjusted for inflation annually, is not subject to federal tax.

In 2012, the House Committee on the Judiciary reaffirmed the act’s purpose, noting families of fallen public safety workers “ would potentially face financial disaster because of the death or incapacitation of the public safety officer,” according to the Federal Register.

As of February 2016, there were 761 initial claims for benefits pending at the PSOB office, 123 appeals of PSOB Office determinations pending a hearing, and 47 appeals of Hearing Officer determinations pending with the Bureau of Justice Assistance director. That year, the benefit was $339,881 and the program budgeted $71.3 million for death benefits.

But the Federal Register notes that an audit by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General found the program processed only 56 percent of claims within one year of filing, and an independent review in late 2015 found that significant changes were needed to deal with a growing backlog of claims.

PSOB spokesperson Greg Robinson tells the Independent the average time to process a claim is about a year. “The most important thing is to make sure you apply,” Robinson says, adding the death or disability has to have taken place in the line of duty or within 24 hours of duty or driving home from work.

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Front Range water supplies under study by local firms

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 9:56 AM

Royal Koepsell, left, and Sean Chambers are working on an online tool that will catalog information about water providers along the Front Range. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Royal Koepsell, left, and Sean Chambers are working on an online tool that will catalog information about water providers along the Front Range.
In this week's edition of the Independent, we report about recommendations that Colorado Springs Utilities sell water to subdivisions outside the city on a long-term basis.

Those subdivisions rely on a mish-mash of water sources, which can be confusing for home buyers in determining whether their homes have a sustainable water supply.

But that confusion could end with the development of an online database of information about water providers from Denver to Pueblo being compiled by two Colorado Springs firms under a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Peak Spatial Enterprises and Chambers Econ & Analytics will be gathering information on dozens of water providers, including water rates, conservation requirements, annual water quality reports, points of contact and more.

"The data allows a buyers to make their own decision," Sean Chambers, owner of Chambers Econ & Analytics who's worked with several water districts, says in an interview.

Counties included in the project include Pueblo, El Paso, Teller, Douglas, Arapahoe, Denver and Adams.

Royal Koepsell with Peak Spatial and Chambers say the project could eventually extend beyond the pilot area and would require updating as changes occur. They hope to assemble a coalition of supporters, including state government, to fund enlarging the area and updating the tool.

Read the news release:
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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Banning Lewis Ranch: Residents weigh in with letters to City Council

Posted By on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 11:42 AM

The north portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch is being developed by Oakwood Homes, but the biggest sections remain prairies. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The north portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch is being developed by Oakwood Homes, but the biggest sections remain prairies.
Rewriting the annexation agreement for the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch has been characterized as one of the biggest decisions City Council will make regarding future development of the city.

But the citizenry isn't very engaged, judging from written comments to Council obtained by the Independent via a Colorado Open Records Act request.

Council has received letters and email messages from 21 citizens, most of whom oppose the proposal to change the agreement, which would ease costs associated with development.

That's only a fraction of the comments Council received from hundreds of citizens about its land swap with The Broadmoor, which saw the city cede ownership of Strawberry Fields open space.

The ranch was annexed in 1988 but not much has happened, because the cost of development discourages developers from moving forward, according to Mayor John Suthers. Instead, developers have "leapfrogged" over the city into territory just outside the city in the Falcon area, taking tax revenue with them.

Suthers wants to stop that outflow, citing a study by TischlerBise financial analysis firm that predicts the city would see a net gain of $49 million in revenue over 30 years if 6,000 acres of the ranch is developed.
Most of the ranch remains undeveloped, and Mayor John Suthers sees that as lost opportunity. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Most of the ranch remains undeveloped, and Mayor John Suthers sees that as lost opportunity.

Here's a sampling of comments Council has received:

Adrian Vinke: "Taxpayers should not be required to pay for issues caused by developers. We the citizens are taxed for everything as it is. The developers are the ones who make the money from developing, let them pay the way."

Esther Mueller: "We, the citizens, cannot afford to subsidize this or any development. We have been repeatedly told by the City that we need to provide additional money in order to afford the development currently in place, as funding from existing citizens has been approved for roads backlog (won’t complete without a renewal for at least another 5 years), some police officers (but not the full amount), and stormwater now as a separate cost."

Neil Talbott: "Changing the initial BLR agreement is chicanery of the highest sort and we should not support it for the simple reason that it puts taxpayers on the hook for things developers previously agreed to."

Walter Lawson and Dave Gardner: "What is the projected cost for capacity enhancement of all arterial roads (and construction of new arterials) to serve the residents of BLR? Is it included on the cost side of this study? What is the projected level of service on I-25 in town, and north to Denver, once BLR is built-out? Are any of the costs of required I-25 or major arterial roadway capacity expansion included in the study? If not, who will be paying for these items?"

Leon Skatberg: "I recall then mayor, Robert Isaac insist[ed] that the annexation agreement be written the way it was to ensure current taxpayers and ratepayers not be stuck with infrastructure costs. I believe he witnessed (he served five four-year terms as mayor) what everyone knows now, that developers did not pay their fair share on development costs and subsequently things like storm water drainage weren't built. I would not like to see us return to the good old days."

William Escovitz: "A small error in the estimated benefits by TischlerBise, or the costs, would totally wipe out the benefits and put the City into the red, at least regarding the budget.
Any change [of] the development agreement would have to be compellingly beneficial to the City, not marginally or doubtfully beneficial."

If you want to read all the comments provided to the Indy, here ya go:

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Broadmoor developer loses lawsuit

Posted By on Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 5:18 PM

Property in The Broadmoor area will be developed for homes. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Property in The Broadmoor area will be developed for homes.
A skirmish arising from a small development in The Broadmoor area has concluded in favor of the resident.

District Judge David Shakes ruled in favor of Dr. James Albert, awarding him attorney fees of $49,196 from the Newport Co. and developer Richard Delesk.

The "abuse of process" case arises out of Delesk's plan to develop about five acres known as Archer Park next door to Albert.

Albert and a contingent of neighbors have opposed the development of high-end homes, arguing, among other things, that the drainage plan is insufficient to protect their neighborhood from flooding. (Delesk — and the city — says they are sufficient. Delesk says  that Albert and other neighbors simply want to prevent the land from developing.) Despite Albert's and other neighbors' protests, which included technical reports by engineers hired by the neighbors, the city approved the drainage plan recently and development can begin.

But the court case at hand stems from Delesk's lawsuit alleging that Albert interfered in his attempt to get financing for the project, a charge Albert denies.

Asked for a comment on the outcome, Albert writes via email, "We are very pleased with the decision!"

Delesk had more say. He says in an email:
Mr. Albert was well represented by good counsel and I congratulate him on the ruling. The outcome of the case hindered on the testimony (or lack thereof) of [a key witness], who was the sole reason I filed a contract interference case in the first place. Unfortunately, when asked to verify the information he had originally given me, [that witness] changed his story during deposition and never showed up to testify during the trial hearing even though he was under subpoena. This left me without any corroboration of my original claim.

All this aside, we are excited to move forward with the development of Archer Park as we have several perspective clients interested in building with us!
Here's the judge's conclusion:
Albert has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Delesk abused process by initiating this litigation. Albert has proven that the litigation was initiated for an improper purpose- to silence the opposition of Albert and Gruen to the Archer Park Project. The improper purpose of the litigation is evident in Delesk’s offer to dismiss the case in return for $5,000 and silencing Albert’s opposition to the Project just days after threatening Albert and his wife with damages in excess of $3,000,000. The litigation initiated by Delesk had no basis in fact. Albert has incurred damages in defending the claims asserted by Delesk. Albert has proven his claim for abuse of process. In this case and under these facts, the abuse of process was the initiation of the litigation itself. The damage incurred by Albert is $49,195.58, plus interest.

The claims asserted by Delesk were substantially groundless and vexatious. Attorney fees are awarded in favor of Albert. Delesk has the option a requesting a hearing on the amount of attorney fees to be determined separately pursuant to C.R.S. 13-17-103. The award of attorney fees pursuant to statute shall merge into the award of attorney fees as damages such that the monetary judgment shall be not be duplicated.

Read the court's order here:
In a separate case, Albert has sued the city to try to reverse City Council's approval of the subdivision, which came before a final drainage plan was approved by city staff.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

UPDATE: Strawberry Fields decision supports city land swap

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 2:37 PM

Save Cheyenne has picketed some city meetings to oppose the land swap. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Save Cheyenne has picketed some city meetings to oppose the land swap.

Kent Obee, spokesperson for Save Cheyenne, tells the Independent, "We're looking to go to the Supreme Court."

Mayor John Suthers, an attorney, counters by saying the unanimous decision by the Court of Appeals gives him a high level of confidence that the city's legal position is sound.

"I thought the trial judge's opinion was very thoughtful and well-written, so I'm no the least bit surprised that it was upheld by the Court of Appeals," he says in an interview. "The only surprise was it that it ruled within a month."

——————ORIGINAL POST 10:52 A.M. THURDAY, FEB. 8, 2018———————-

The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in the city's favor in its land exchange with The Broadmoor resort, turning away arguments by the nonprofit Save Cheyenne that the trade of the city's Strawberry Fields open space should have gone to voters to decide.

The city issued this statement:

The City of Colorado Springs today released the below statement in response to the opinion issued by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

“Today the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a unanimous opinion, upholding the lower court’s ruling that the City of Colorado Springs acted within its authority as a Home Rule City in the land exchange. We are confident that any reviewing court will continue to find in the City’s favor.”
We've asked Save Cheyenne to comment and will update when we hear back.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

UPDATE: El Paso County Sheriff's Office honors fallen deputy

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 5:44 PM

Sheriff Bill Elder, at the podium, and others gathered to honor fallen Deputy Micah Flick on Feb. 6. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Sheriff Bill Elder, at the podium, and others gathered to honor fallen Deputy Micah Flick on Feb. 6.
Micah Flick died in the line of duty Feb. 5. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • Micah Flick died in the line of duty Feb. 5.

This just in from the CSPD:

On February 5, 2018, members of the B.A.T.T.L.E. (Beat Auto Theft Through Law Enforcement) task force, comprised of detectives from the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD), El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO), and the Colorado State Patrol (CSP), located a vehicle previously reported stolen from Colorado Springs. The vehicle was surveilled to the 4200 block of Galley Road where detectives observed the suspect exit the vehicle. To alleviate the possibility of a vehicle pursuit or entry into nearby apartments, B.A.T.T.L.E. task force detectives developed a plan to arrest the suspect while the suspect walked through an apartment complex parking lot.

At approximately 3:55 PM, the detectives made contact with the suspect and a struggle ensued. The suspect then drew a handgun and began firing. Three task force detectives then returned gunfire. EPSO Detective Micah Lee Flick was fatally shot, while two additional EPSO detectives and one CSPD detective were wounded by gunfire. A semi-automatic handgun belonging to the suspect was recovered from the scene of the incident.

The CSPD detective shot in the incident is identified as Marcus Yanez. Detective Yanez has been employed by the Colorado Springs Police Department since October 2007. Detective Yanez was treated and released from a local hospital.

The suspect was also fatally shot and died at the scene of the incident. An autopsy was completed by the El Paso County Coroner’s Office on February 6, 2018. The suspect was positively identified as 19 year old Manuel Zetina, a resident of Colorado Springs.

An adult male civilian walking in the area was also shot and wounded as a result of gunfire. He is undergoing treatment at an area hospital.

Information regarding injuries sustained by the EPSO deputies will only come from EPSO PIO.

The CSPD Deadly Force Investigation Team (DFIT) is the lead agency conducting this investigation. Colorado Revised Statute 16-2.5-301 provides the statutory requirements for these investigations. Once the investigation is completed, it will be given to the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office for review. The District Attorney’s Office will then provide their report based on Senate Bill 15-219.

The detectives involved have been placed on routine administrative leave in accordance with agency policy.

Detective Micah Flick’s and Manuel Zetina’s deaths represent the third and fourth homicides investigated by the Colorado Springs Police Department in 2018. At this time last year, CSPD had investigated five homicides. This continues to be an active investigation.

There will be no release of the suspects photograph at this time.

Anyone with information or is a witness to this investigation is asked to call the Colorado Springs Police Department at (719) 444-7000; or if you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (719) 634-STOP (7867) or 1-800-222-8477.

—————————ORIGINAL POST 2:04 P.M. TUESDAY, FEB. 6—————————

El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said at a news conference on Feb. 6 that from his first day in office in late 2014, his worst fear was to hear of a member of his department slain in the line of duty.

"Last night that fear became a reality, and my heart is broken," Elder told a roomful of reporters at the Sheriff's Office.

He was referring to the Feb. 5 shooting death of Detective Micah Flick, 34, who was working with other law enforcement officers on a routine arrest that didn't require a call-out of the tactical team. They were in the area of Galley Road and Murray Boulevard when, about 4 p.m., gunfire erupted. The assailant was killed in the hail of bullets that also injured one Colorado Springs police officer, two deputies and a bystander.

Elder reported that five-year department veteran Deputy Scott Stone was shot in the lower abdomen and is in stable condition at Memorial Hospital. Detective Sgt. Jacob Abendshan, with the department for 16 years, suffered injuries from shrapnel, Elder said, and is listed in good condition. He didn't say where Abendshan is recovering.

The CSPD officer who was injured has not yet been identified.
Reporters from along the Front Range attended Elder's news conference. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Reporters from along the Front Range attended Elder's news conference.

All were wearing protective vests, Elder said, and all were wearing placards identifying them as law enforcement officers. The detectives were in plain clothes, rather than uniforms. Elder declined to further discuss details of the incident, refusing to answer a question about whether any of the injured were wounded by gunfire from officers.

The Colorado Springs Police Department is the lead agency on the investigation into the shooting, he said.

"I ask that this community, state and great nation pray for El Paso County Sheriff's Office and hold the Flick family up in prayer," he said.

He said Flick, a graduate of the Colorado Springs Christian School, made his mark during 11 years with the department and that "almost everyone" knew him. The department wasn't able to provide reporters at the news conference with a list of commendations during his time as a deputy.

"I also want this community to know this is a strong agency," Elder said. "The brave men and women will continue to serve. These are dangerous jobs, but these men and women are here to serve. I'm proud to be the sheriff today."
A sheriff's cruiser is parked outside the Sheriff's Office, 27 E. Vermijo Ave., with Flick's photo in the window. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A sheriff's cruiser is parked outside the Sheriff's Office, 27 E. Vermijo Ave., with Flick's photo in the window.
Responding to a question about a spate of recent deputies killed in action in Colorado, Elder said, "This is a tough business. I've been in the business my entire life. Unfortunately, in the last few years, there's been a lack of respect for men and women there to protect our community. It shocks me. A brave, honorable young man was taken in senseless violence."

Elder said his employees feel part of a family, and, "We will emerge from this stronger."

Arrangements for the fallen officer are pending, Elder said, noting the Sheriff's Office has set up an account to receive donations mailed to El Paso County Sheriff Foundation, 1980 Dominion Way, Colorado Springs.
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Monday, February 5, 2018

Colorado Supreme Court rules Smokebrush Foundation clear to sue city

Posted By on Mon, Feb 5, 2018 at 1:15 PM

Katherine Tudor and Don Goede, founder and executive director, respectively, of the Smokebrush Foundation, as they observed testing samples taken from their property in 2013. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Katherine Tudor and Don Goede, founder and executive director, respectively, of the Smokebrush Foundation, as they observed testing samples taken from their property in 2013.
In April 2013, we wrote about pollution from the city's former coal gasification plant drifting onto a neighbor property owned by the Smokebrush Foundation.

Feb.6, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling in Smokebrush's favor on one matter, which clears the way for Smokebrush to sue the city for damages. For background on the case, see this explanation we published as the Supreme Court prepared to hear oral arguments a year ago.

The ruling said the the city is liable for gas pollution it generated almost 80 years ago that's migrated to the Smokebrush property on Cimino Drive under the Colorado Avenue bridge.

The case could impact other claims across the state that involve pollution migrating to neighboring properties, Smokebrush's attorney Randall Weiner says in a phone interview.

In fact, the city of Boulder recently reached a settlement with Xcel Energy for $3.6 million for contamination beneath city property caused by an old gas plant, he notes. "If cities can obtain monies from utilities for contaminating the sites, then certainly neighbors like Smokebrush should be able to obtain monies to clean up the site" caused by pollution year ago.

Other cities that have such sites include Sterling, La Junta and Grand Junction, Weiner says.

"We've had to jump through so many hoops just to get the opportunity to get justice for the Smokebrush Foundation," he says, noting the case will be returned to District Court in coming weeks where damages will be litigated. "Thanks to Kat Tudor and Don Goede [with Smokebrush Foundation] for having the staying power."

Weiner reports his clients have had no settlement discussions with the city.

Here's the conclusion of the Supreme Court:
For these reasons, we conclude that the City has not waived immunity under section 24-10-106(1)(c)’s dangerous condition of a public building exception for Smokebrush’s asbestos-related claims. We further conclude, however, that the City has waived immunity under section 24-10-106(1)(f)’s public gas facility exception for Smokebrush’s coal tar-related claims. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the court of appeals, and we remand this case to that court with instructions that the case be returned to the district court for the dismissal of Smokebrush’s asbestos-related claims and further proceedings on its coal tar-related claims.
Read the entire ruling here:

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

El Paso County commission race loses sole Democrat

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 9:21 AM

The only Democratic candidate for the El Paso County Commission's northern District 1 seat has withdrawn from the race due to a state policy issue.

Robert Force, executive director of the auto theft section of the State Patrol, tells the Independent on Jan. 31 he received an opinion that day that he cannot run due to policies that prohibit State Patrol employees from seeking the county office.

Force filed his candidacy in mid-January and hadn't yet filed a campaign finance report.

Republican candidates for the seat, now occupied by Darryl Glenn, who's term-limited and is seeking the Congressional District seat held by Doug Lamborn, include:

Ann Howe, a defense contractor who formerly held a state House seat in New Hampshire.

Calandra Vargas, who’s worked on political campaigns and as an aide in the state capitol and nearly kept Lamborn off the primary ballot at the 2016 GOP assembly.

Chris Whitney, an Air Force veteran and businessman.

Holly Williams, former public trustee and wife of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams who works for the county in the environmental department.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tancredo bows out of governor's race

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 11:10 AM

Tom Tancredo with Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Tom Tancredo with Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs.
Citing a lack of campaign cash and media enemies undermining his candidacy, Republican Tom Tancredo dropped out of the Colorado governor's race on Jan. 30.

He told 9NEWS he'd hoped to raise $150,000 by Jan. 15 but fell short by half. A former U.S. congressman, Tancredo has run for governor in the last three election cycles, as an American Constitution Party candidate in 2010 and as a Republican in 2014 when Bob Beauprez won the Republican nomination.

Tancredo also blamed the media — 9NEWS, the Denver Post and the Colorado Springs Gazette, in particular as well as the fact he didn't want to win the primary only to lose in the general election.

"You guys hate me as much as the Democrats," Tancredo told 9NEWS. "You in particular, this station in particular... Let's face it, I know, believe me, this ain't my first rodeo. I know exactly where my opponents are. And you guys, especially at Channel 9, are at the top of the heap."

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, also running for governor, issued this statement:
I’m grateful to Tom Tancredo for highlighting issues that don’t always get the attention they deserve, particularly educating the public on the dangers of unchecked and unaccountable sanctuary cities.

Tom's unique voice has been crucial in the debate over issues important to many Coloradans. He has a genuine concern for his state and is a steadfast champion of individual rights. I wish Tom all the best as he looks ahead to his next venture.
The Colorado Democratic Party noted new polling shows President Trump's approval at 37 percent in the state, which would seem to make it difficult for a Republican to win in a state that has long favored Democrats in the governor's mansion.

"Even former front-runner Tom Tancredo knows there is no path to victory for Trump-style politics in Colorado," Democratic party spokesperson Eric Walker said in a statement. "Tancredo might not be on the ballot, but his ideas will be. Robbing the middle class to reward the rich, ripping health care away from hardworking Coloradans, and attacking immigrants and communities of color are still the guiding principles of the Colorado Republican Party. There are simply no moderates left in the Colorado GOP, and whichever right-wing candidate emerges from their primary will be way too far to the extreme right fringe for Colorado voters."

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Mayor Ken Jaray gives departing Manitou city administrator severance pay

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 10:58 AM

Ken Jaray: Looking for a headhunter firm. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Ken Jaray: Looking for a headhunter firm.
Manitou Springs Mayor Ken Jaray says the city will pay departing City Administrator Jason Wells a quarter of his annual pay of roughly $104,000, or about $26,000, in accordance with an agreement.

Jaray hadn't returned the Independent's phone call by presstime, so we were unable to include his comments in our newspaper this week. But we did speak with him late morning on Jan. 30.

The city will also spend up to $26,000, he says, on a consultant to help find candidates to replace Wells, who served for nearly four years.

Jaray says he and City Council members are currently in the process of interviewing search firms and hope to settle on a choice in the next 10 days.

Asked why Wells is leaving, Jaray says, "We just decided to take a little different direction." Asked to elaborate, he said, "to have new leadership more consistent with the master plan."

He declined to go into further detail.
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Colorado Springs wrestles with Banning Lewis Ranch development rules

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 9:12 AM

This portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch, on its north end, was developed by Oakwood Homes in accordance with the existing annexation agreement. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • This portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch, on its north end, was developed by Oakwood Homes in accordance with the existing annexation agreement.
In this week's issue, we explore the proposed new annexation agreement for the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch, which forms the city's eastern border.

Since the current annexation agreement was adopted by City Council in 1988, not much development has occurred, so Mayor John Suthers wants to change the requirements to encourage developers to build there.

After the Independent went to press on Jan. 31, a new schedule of approval emerged that afternoon, showing City Council will consider the new annexation agreement on first reading on April 10, followed by final approval on April 24. That's another month's delay, after Council already delayed final approval from late February until March 27.

And the push back to late April is fine with Council President Richard Skorman.

"There’s lots of answers we needed that we weren’t getting answers for," he tells the Indy. "We were getting fired lots of questions [from citizens]. We just felt it was being rushed. There was an interest in getting this moved forward quickly because of some of the smaller land owners who have been waiting and waiting for this to happen, and it’s been a financial problem for them."
This is a view of the Banning Lewis Ranch back in the days when it was a working cattle operation. - COURTESY, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT
  • Courtesy, Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District
  • This is a view of the Banning Lewis Ranch back in the days when it was a working cattle operation.
This is how the ranch looks today, which isn't much different than 50 years ago.
  • This is how the ranch looks today, which isn't much different than 50 years ago.
Skorman says the biggest landowner, Nor'wood Development Group, has said it will spend a couple of years with urban planners to devise a master plan and what that means for "green infrastructure."

Skorman would like to look at the master plan for Banning Lewis Ranch in tandem with the city's comprehensive plan, now underway, and the transportation master plan. (At present, there is no plan to provide transit service to the ranch.)

"We need to look at this [the ranch] in a bigger context," he says. "The issue for me is how it connects to everything. We’ve built trails to nowhere. We haven’t required certain developers to pitch in. Otherwise, we’re just going to have another suburban sprawl island out there."

If you're interested in a deep dive into the issue, we've provided some key documents for your perusal. First, the 1988 annexation agreement, which is in force today:
Here's the new proposed agreement:

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two agreements produced by the city:

Lastly, Tim Seibert, with Nor'wood, gave a statement at a Jan. 16 City Council meeting that is provided here in full. That's followed by the press release issued by Nor'wood upon buying the Banning Lewis property in 2014.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Old North End to see traffic-flow changes

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 4:24 PM

Big changes to traffic movement in the Old North End are coming soon. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Big changes to traffic movement in the Old North End are coming soon.
Motorists, be aware that things will soon change in the Old North End under a new plan of "road dieting" in which four-lane streets will be converted to two lanes to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians, but still move traffic, according to the city.

The city announced in a Jan. 30 news release that changes are under way after a series of public meetings designed to delve into transportation and safety concerns. We wrote about the traffic concerns in April 2016.

In general, the changes include reducing traffic speeds, reducing the number of vehicle lanes and creating bicycle lanes.

Speed limits for arterial streets will be cut from 35 mph to 30 mph on Nevada and Cascade avenues; Weber, Uintah, Wahsatch and Fontanero streets. The maximum on Wood Avenue and Tejon Street will be 25 mph, down from 30 mph. New signs will be posted soon, the city says.

"In addition to reducing the speed limits throughout the area, the City will continue to review engineering best practices that can be implemented to redesign the roadways to encourage motorists to drive the new speed limit, thereby increasing safety for all roadway users and better managing traffic flow," the release said.

Nevada's truck route will be removed in efforts to reduce noise and heavy trucks. Changing a truck route requires City Council approval, which is slated for this spring.

Uintah between Weber and Corona Street will see a center turn lane added sometime this summer to "improve thru-traffic flow and reduce congestion," the release said.

The city has installed "vertical delineators" to block illegal left turns onto Wood at Uintah.

To accommodate bicycles throughout the Old North End, these corridors will see changes:
• Cascade will be restriped with one through lane, a buffered bike lane, and parking in each direction between Boulder and Jackson streets this spring. Goal: Improve pedestrian safety and provide a bicycle link to downtown. The City is also plans to redesign the Cascade and Uintah intersection in summer 2019.

Colorado College will trim the number of crosswalks on Cascade from four with flashing lights to two standard crosswalks this spring.

"Reducing travel lanes to one in each direction will facility a safer crossing with less delay for drivers using standard crosswalks as opposed to replacing the flashing automated crosswalks with the pedestrian activated mid-intersection street lights required for streets with four travel lanes," the release said.

• Weber between Colorado Avenue and Jackson will be restriped to narrow four lanes on Weber to two and a center left turn lane, bike lanes and parking. The bike lane will be next to the vehicle lanes, unlike Weber south of Pikes Peak Avenue where bike lanes run parallel to the curb line. This change has no specific date.

• Fontanero between El Paso Street and Wood will be restriped to include two travel lanes, a center turn lane and bike lanes sometime in 2019.

In addition to all that, Mountain Metro Transit and city traffic engineering is reviewing routes and usage to see if modifications are necessary.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Police K-9 named Tank fitted with protective gear

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 5:10 PM

  • Photos courtesy CSPD
Everyone loves a dog story, and this is a great one.

A nonprofit in Massachusetts, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., has provided a protective vest for K-9 Tank, a Hungarian born police dog that's part of the Colorado Springs Police Department.

From a news release:
The non-profit was established in 2009 to assist law enforcement agencies with this potentially lifesaving body armor for their four-legged K9 officers. Since its inception, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. provided over 2,700 protective vests in 50 states through private and corporate donations at a cost of over $2.3 million.

The program is open to dogs actively employed in the U.S. with law enforcement or related agencies who are certified and at least 20 months of age. New K9 graduates, as well as K9s with expired vests, are eligible to participate.

The donation to provide one protective vest for law enforcement K9 is $950.00. Each vest has an average weight of 4-5 lbs., is valued between $1,744. – $2,283., and comes with a five-year warranty. There is an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States. For more information or to learn about volunteer opportunities, please call 508-824-6978. Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. provides information, lists events, and accepts tax-deductible donations of any denomination at or mail to P.O. Box 9, East Taunton, MA 02718.
Tank is the newest member of the CSPD K-9 squad and arrived a year ago. The unit has 10 dual purpose handler teams, nine officers/handlers supervised by one sergeant/handler. All 10 are now equipped with vests.

Here's more about Tank, via Lt. Howard Black at the CSPD:
K9 Tank was born on August 24, 2015, in Hungary. K9 Tank was later brought to the United States by Shallow Creek Kennels located in Sharpsville, PA. In January of 2017, two members of the CSPD K9 Unit flew to Pennsylvania; and after a rigorous selection process, selected K9 Tank as the next member to join the CSPD K9 Unit.

Upon K9 Tank’s arrival in Colorado Springs, CO, he was partnered with Officer Timothy Donovan, a five-year veteran of the K9 Unit and a 12-year veteran of the Colorado Springs Police Department. K9 Tank was added to the team to fill a void left by the retiring of Officer Donovan’s first partner, K9 Max. K9 Max has since been trying to enjoy retired life at home with Officer Donovan.

K9 Tank and Officer Donovan successfully completed the Colorado Springs Police Department’s 600-hour in-house K9 Academy, as well as receiving certification through the National Police Canine Association (NPCA). K9 Tank is a dual-purpose canine, meaning he is trained in all areas of patrol work to include locating and apprehending violent and dangerous felony suspects at large in the community. K9 Tank’s primary purpose is as a locating tool. K9 Tank is also a certified to detect illegal narcotics and is one of two certified non-marijuana detection canines.
Officer Donovan and the Colorado Springs Police Department K9 Unit are extremely grateful for the very generous members of our community who have made it possible to not only vest K9 Tank, but the entire unit as well. We are all also very appreciative and supportive of the mission that Vested Interest in K9s has set out to accomplish.

When asked what this means to Officer Donovan, he stated, “I am just overjoyed that this was made possible. We, as handlers, realize that these dogs have a purpose and a job to do, but we still want to give them the most protection possible so they can come home safely at night. We form a bond and an attachment with our partners and they become members of our families. We don’t want to see anything happen to them and this vest gives Tank the opportunity to come home after every shift.”

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