Anjuli Kapoor, executive director of Ithaka Land, has resigned her post at the controversial nonprofit, whose sales of properties used to house poor people has drawn criticism from past supporters and triggered a request for a Colorado Attorney General's Office investigation.
Kapoor cited "personal attacks directed at her in the media, in her personal email and by phone by opponents of Ithaka's strategic direction" as part of her decision to step down, board chair Amner Carmona Molina tells the Indy in an email.
She resigned "a few weeks back," he said, and the board has started its search for her successor. An interim executive director has not yet been named, he said.
But it doesn't appear that Kapoor's departure will change Ithaka's plan to sell off all but two of its remaining properties.
Said Molina, "We will choose someone who will continue with the mission and direction of the organization to provide the best support to our residents and our community."
Ithaka Land, formerly called Ithaka Land Trust, was established in the 1980s to house the poor who worked to maintain the community, including its rental houses.
But after Kapoor was hired in 2017, the board switched gears and began selling off properties with the goal of providing only "transitional" housing rather than following the nonprofit's original mission to hold property “in perpetuity for the benefit of people with limited incomes, and to promote the value of living in an inclusive neighborhood.”
The Indy reported on Ithaka's change in a cover story in January, found here, with another story about Ithaka's exclusive deals with two firefighters to acquire and redevelop the houses into market-based rentals. The Indy also wrote a subsequent story that detailed loans Ithaka obtained from the city based on that previous mission.
In May, a group of former board members of Ithaka Land Trust asked Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office to investigate Ithaka's recent sales of nearly half its 21 properties to one chosen developer at prices below market value, while loaning $555,717, interest free, to the same developer on three of those sales.
The transactions represent a radical departure from Ithaka’s original mission.
All the houses were sold to Drew Gaiser, a Denver area firefighter and developer, between January and October 2020, without obtaining appraisals and without opening bidding to other buyers.
Gaiser works closely on the redevelopment of those properties with Colorado Springs firefighter Ryan Royal, who’s the son of CSFD Chief Randy Royal.
Ryan Royal engaged in redevelopment activities without reporting that work to the Fire Department, a violation of policy about which the CSFD refuses to comment.
Gaiser bought the houses for a combined total that was $692,292 less than the market values as reported by the El Paso County Assessor’s Office, whose property value listings generally run 15 to 20 percent below market because reappraisals for tax purposes trail the market by up to two years.
In a message widely distributed to supporters on June 22, Emmy Handen, daughter of Ithaka founder Steve Handen, said Kapoor's resignation should have no impact on the AG complaint.
She noted she's in touch with City Councilor Richard Skorman and community development official Steve Posey in an effort to reclaim the original Ithaka property, known as the Bijou House, located at 411 W. Bijou St.
Ithaka's latest project is to demolish the old El Paso County Health Department building at 301 S. Union Blvd., and build a new transitional housing facility there.