Ethics panel to hear complaint against Colorado Springs mayor

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

COLORADO SPRINGS — A panel convenes June 12 to reconsider a complaint that accuses Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera of breeching the city’s ethics ordinance. The complaint filed by Ron Johnson accuses Rivera of having a conflict of interest in negotiating a deal to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters here.

The complaint will be heard by only two members of the city’s three-member “Independent Ethics Committee.” Jan Doran resigned Tuesday after questions arose about her relationship with Rivera. As The Colorado Statesman reported last month, Doran had campaigned for Rivera’s re-election in 2007 and had previously endorsed his unsuccessful Republican bid for Congress in 2006.

The complaint will be heard by the two remaining members — Stephen Hook, who served as a city attorney for 25 years, and retired Air Force General Malham Wakin, an ethics consultant who served nearly 14 years on the USOC Ethics Committee.

“The city calls it the Independent Ethics Commission — but it’s not independent,” said Lindsey Fischer, a prominent attorney and former municipal court judge. “It doesn’t even have an independent attorney. Its legal adviser is the city attorney, Pat Kelly.”

At issue is Rivera’s role in a USOC deal that awarded a $53 million contract to Ray Marshall and his LandCo Equity Partners, one of four developers who submitted proposals last year to build offices and upgrade the USOC training center. However, the complaint alleges that Marshall, LandCo and his other limited liability companies had retained Rivera, an investment adviser and vice president of UBS Securities.

Fischer, Johnson’s legal counsel, plans to proffer four subpoenas to obtain financial information, including any commissions paid to Rivera by Marshall and his partnerships. The subpoenas are slated for Rivera, UBS Securities, Marshall and LandCo attorney John Cook.

He anticipates hearing protests claiming the documentation has been sealed because of civil lawsuits filed by LandCo and Marshall against the city and the city’s counterclaim. Then there’s the economic crimes investigation by the District Attorney Dan May into Marshall and his partnerships.

“These records are not sealed by the court,” declared Fischer. “That’s been reported by some in the media — but it’s not true.”

Fischer — an attorney for 50 years, 42 of which were spent in Colorado Springs — declined to speculate on the hearing’s outcome.

“The situation is up in the air. We’re hoping our persuasive powers will prevail,” he said.

Two “aye” votes by commission members are required to take action on a complaint. A split vote will essentially reject the complaint.

Fischer anticipates that commission members Hook and Wakin also will be advised by Kelly, whose job is to represent the city, its employees and elected officials.

Adding intrigue is the timing of the ethics commission hearing, which will take place the day after the city attempts to settle a lawsuit with Marshall and LandCo.

In March, Marshall and LandCo filed a lawsuit against the city and USOC to recover unspecified damages for allegedly failing to compensate the developer for work performed. The USOC pulled out of the deal with the city and LandCo because, in part, the developer failed to make $16 million in upgrades to the training center. The USOC also ordered the city and the developer to quit using the famous Olympic rings logo.

Adding more intrigue, LandCo and the USOC issued the following joint statement on June 10:

“LandCo Equity Partners and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced today that they have resolved all disputes relating to the USOC and LandCo’s relationship as part of the project to retain the USOC in Colorado Springs…

“Because they resolved these disputes, LandCo dismissed the USOC from its lawsuit captioned LandCo Equity Partners, LLC et. al. v. The City of Colorado Springs, et al., Case No. 09-cv-00692-DME-MEH (the “Lawsuit”), which is pending in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.

“… Although the lawsuit between LandCo and the City continues, the USOC and LandCo hope that a full resolution of all disputes between LandCo and the City can be reached so that the project can be completed for the benefit of the USOC and United States Olympic athletes. “

Johnson speculated that the city will settle the legal dispute with Marshall and LandCo to avoid a trial that would expose secret aspects of the deal — and delay the project to keep USOC in the city.

“It’s time for the city to come clean,” said Fischer, who has received many calls from folks who want the backroom deal to be made public. “Most people here want the USOC in Colorado Springs, but a lot of them believe the city is rushing too fast to do something they shouldn’t.”

The request for the commission to accept the complaint “makes lots of sense — hopefully they agree,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be a commissioner who voted against the people.”

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com