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Gallagher rebuked

Attack against Colorado Springs councilman gets personal

After threatening to go as far as kicking City Councilman Tom Gallagher out of office for publicly backing a water project that could benefit his employer, eight other members of City Council served him a tongue-lashing instead this week.

The rebuke occurred at Monday's informal City Council meeting. The elected officials initially planned to take the matter up during a secret meeting, called an "executive session." But Gallagher protested, and a majority voted to keep the discussion open to the public -- and in doing so offered a rare glimpse at bitter divisions among council members.

Councilman Larry Small hurled this personal insult: "I know you're insignificant and you're not going to make a difference," he said, looking directly at Gallagher. "You've destroyed your credibility with this council."

At issue is Gallagher's claim that City Council has been unwilling to consider cheaper alternatives to the $1 billion proposed Southern Delivery System water pipeline from Pueblo favored by Colorado Springs Utilities.

One alternative, called the Highway 115 plan, would pipe water instead from a reservoir near Penrose. Gallagher has claimed the project could cost $500 million less than the city's plan.

But the Highway 115 plan, if built, would require the city to purchase land from developers Mark and Jim Morley, who own the surveying company that Gallagher works for. Gallagher has maintained that he would not personally profit from the plan.

City Attorney Patricia Kelly disagreed, saying that an apparent conflict of interest exists. But she found no evidence Gallagher had publicly discussed information from closed meetings, as had been charged by Councilman Randy Purvis.

Gallagher received a repetitive scolding from the other eight members of Council, the mantra being "give it up, let it go."

But Gallagher maintained that not discussing a cheaper plan would be a "disservice to the community and ratepayers."

After the meeting, Gallagher said he understood the rebuke, but pointed out that during the discussion several members requested the Morleys to step forward and make a formal presentation about their Highway 115 plan. He said he is confident such a presentation could be made in the near future. And, if that option were to come to a vote, he said he'd walk out of the room. "All you'll see," Gallagher said, "is the dust from my feet."

-- Dan Wilcock

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