by Pam Zubeck
If you like to get down in the weeds on small-town spats, here's one for you. It takes place in Crowley County, site of J. Adrian Stanley's recent cover story.
Below is the press release sent out today, about a lawsuit filed this week. We can't possibly sort through it and make heads or tails of it on a Friday afternoon, but if you can ...
Ordway, CO — On Wednesday, July 27, eleven plaintiffs filed suit in United States District Court for the District of Colorado against fourteen Defendants, including: the Board of Directors of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District ("LAVWCD"); the Town Council of the Town of Ordway, Colorado; Ordway Town Marshal William Ferritto; and several Ordway Trustees. The Plaintiffs are represented by Adam M. Platt of Halifax Legal LLC in Denver.
The Plaintiffs, who include Ordway Trustee Lynn Chubbuck, former Town Administrator Karen Dietrich, and Crowley County Elementary School Principal Pamela Arbuthnot, have alleged a widespread conspiracy to: (1) squelch dissent regarding the allocation of Ordway’s valuable water assets and (2) punish Plaintiffs for reporting allegations of rampant misconduct on the part of Ordway Marshal William Ferritto.
Plaintiffs allege that the Conspirators retaliated against Karen Dietrich, who was Ordway Town Administrator from 2008 until 2010, for her public opposition to the LAVWCD-promoted $300 million Arkansas Valley Water Conduit by filing baseless complaints accusing her and her husband of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of C.D., the Dietrich’s then five-year-old foster daughter, whom the Dietrichs have since adopted. Plaintiffs further allege that Defendant Carrie Steele-Collins, the wife of Defendant Ordway Trustee Larry Collins, repeatedly exploited C.D.’s emotional and cognitive disabilities in an effort to undermine Karen Dietrich’s family life.
Plaintiffs do not claim that the Crowley County School District Board of Education or Superintendent Scott Cuckow were participants in the conspiracy. However, Plaintiff C.D., through her parents and next of friends, has alleged claims against both under Federal disability laws for having failing to take adequate steps to protect her from Steele-Collins, who the lawsuit alleges focused upon C.D. because her disability made her an especially easy means to hurt Dietrich.
The lawsuit also alleges that Conspirators — and especially Ordway Marshal William Ferritto — have retaliated against Trustee Lynn Chubbuck, his extended family, and two others because Chubbuck sent a confidential letter to Crowley County DA Rodney Fouracre enclosing statements from several women detailing specific acts of on-the-job misconduct (including several allegations of sexual harassment) by Ferritto, who is Ordway’s only law enforcement officer. Fouracre’s reply to Chubbuck, which included the name of at least one of the women, was intercepted by then Ordway Treasurer Terri Henderson, who disseminated it via email to Ordway’s other trustees as well as, Plaintiffs allege, other unknown parties.
Plaintiffs allege that shortly after Chubbuck’s letter was revealed, Marshal Ferritto, Ordway Mayor Kelli Jo Rusher, and Trustee Larry Collins visited Fouracre — the DA — and, while
denying the allegations against Ferritto, pushed Fouracre to prosecute Chubbuck for his role in helping arrange the May 2009 sale of a dilapidated concession trailer that the school district wanted removed from its ball fields.
Though Fouracre has thus far refused to do so, Plaintiffs allege that Ferritto, with the knowledge and approval of Ordway’s Town Council and other Conspirators, has undertaken a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Chubbuck and several members of his extended family, two of whom were also involved in the sale of the trailer.
Ferritto has gone so far as to travel to Dumas, Texas in an effort to retrieve the trailer from its rightful owner, Bart Arbuthnot, who paid Ordway’s recreation board $150 for the privilege of hauling away the rotting and rodent-infested hulk. Ferritto has reported the trailer stolen and accused Plaintiffs Bart and Blaine Arbuthnot of forging the title, despite former Crowley County Superintendent John McCleary’s insistence that he did in fact sign the title over to Bart Arbuthnot.
The lawsuit allegations also include details of Ferritto’s harassment of former Ordway Code Enforcement Officer Julie Decker, who assisted Chubbuck in compiling the women’s statements, and her daughter, whom Plaintiffs allege Ferritto has repeatedly sexually harassed. Both women are Plaintiffs in this case.
Plaintiffs allege that in furtherance of the same conspiracy, Ferritto has harassed several Plaintiffs by charging them with a series of unfounded misdemeanors, including: charging Lynn Chubbuck with two counts each of official misconduct and harassment; charging Julie Decker with being an accessory to a crime, making a false statement to police, and leaving animal waste in the yard of a rental house she had moved out of seven months earlier; and charging Decker’s daughter with trespassing for a noon weekday visit to Ordway’s kennel.
The lawsuit is captioned Arbuthnot et al. v. Town Council of the Town of Ordway et al. (Colo. Dist. Ct. No. 11-CV-01942-MSK). The case has been assigned to Judge Marcia S. Krieger.
The Complaint is available online on the Halifax Legal LLC website, at http://www.halifaxlegalllc.com/Majorcases.htm
Further information regarding the case will be posted as it becomes available.