Colorado Springs Government Watch spent more than $65,000 in its failed bid to remove Helen Collins from City Council. And that, apparently, is just the beginning of its political involvement.
The shadowy group run by Dede Laugesen, wife of Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen, reports that its independent committee got all of its money from Government Watch itself — which means its backers will remain hidden. But Dede Laugesen says via email that her job as director is "to hold public officials accountable," and adds that the "commitment to open government and accountability does not end with any given election cycle."
Indeed, on Friday, Laugesen followed anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce and Collins through the hallway of Denver District Court, filming as she asked Collins why she had shown up.
"Because Douglas Bruce is my friend," Collins says on the video (bit.ly/1IGxrzo).
Bruce was at the courthouse for a probation-revocation hearing related to his tax evasion case. He allegedly failed to notify the Office of Probation within the allotted 14 days of his transfer of a Colorado Springs condo, his late mother's home, to Collins on Dec. 4, one day before a city judgment of $7,900 was entered against him. The transfer effectively allowed Bruce to avoid the city placing a lien on the property.
The Office of Probation also notes in court documents that Bruce didn't report paying his brother $29,366.93, his share of the condo, until late February. Its complaint recommends Bruce's term of probation be revoked and that he be given a new probationary term. The judge continued the hearing until July 13.
The condo deal sparked an ethics complaint against Collins filed Jan. 21 by the City Attorney's Office. That matter is pending.
It's also since come to light that Collins owns two run-down apartment buildings in Kansas City, Missouri, for which she's been hit with multiple code enforcement violations, and that tenants there paid rent to Bruce.
Heather Dugger told the Independent by phone on April 6 that she, her husband and three children, ages 11, 7 and 3, were being evicted after paying rent of $450 a month to a property manager who worked for Bruce. They quit paying three months ago, she says, when the manager stopped coming by to collect the rent. The water was shut off a month ago, she says, so she carried buckets of water to her apartment from a companion building. She says Bruce was supposed to pay for water and trash pickup. A code enforcement officer says the city posted the property as illegal to occupy because of a lack of water service.
Collins and Bruce also paired up last November to file a lawsuit against an online property auction firm in Oklahoma, alleging they were charged improper fees on deals planned in multiple states. In the lawsuit, Collins and Bruce state they were partners in the property acquisition business. "Collins furnished her name and credit card; Bruce furnished the $2,500 deposit and did the bidding," the lawsuit states. "Title was to be in the name of Collins. Bruce also made the demands for refund and has the business records of the entire experience."
Bruce and Collins signed the court document and gave the same post office box number, the same phone number (that of Bruce) and the same email address (belonging to Bruce).
On Friday, Laugesen asked Bruce several questions, camera rolling, about the Kansas City properties. In the video, he turns and says, "What about the $65,000 that you won't disclose?" When she asks what he did with the rent money instead of paying the water bill, he reaches for the camera and says, "Show the rent money, idiot."
Laugesen has filed a complaint with the Denver Police Department, alleging Bruce assaulted her.