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Noted: MMJ patient Crouse sues the city


Crouse sues Springs

The Independent has learned that on Dec. 27, medical marijuana patient (and leukemia sufferer) Bob Crouse filed a lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. He's seeking compensation for the 55 marijuana plants and 6.5 pounds of matter that were confiscated by the Colorado Springs Police Department in the course of an investigation, and allegedly not returned in good health, as mandated by Amendment 20.

"I'll be very brief," says local defense attorney Clifton Black, who, along with Charles Houghton, is serving as Crouse's counsel. "We just feel that our client should be compensated for the damage to his property."

Though Black was spare with details about the case, including the amount sought, it came out in Crouse's June trial — in which he was acquitted of charges of cultivation and distribution of marijuana — that the marijuana was valued at roughly $307,000.

The city's communications department, the city attorney's office and CSPD all failed to respond to multiple requests for comment. — Bryce Crawford

Election battles loom

Competition is shaping up in several of the six Colorado Springs City Council districts that will be filled in the April 2 election. Here's the rundown as of Tuesday morning of those who have declared an intent to run:

District 1, northwest: Incumbent Tim Leigh, elected to a two-year at-large term in 2011, is running to replace term-limited Scott Hente. Joe Barrera, a diversity and education consultant, is also running.

District 2, north: Incumbent Angela Dougan is seeking re-election.

District 3, southwest: Lisa Czelatdko holds this seat, and hasn't announced a re-election bid. Declared candidates are former El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg and former state legislator Keith King. (Incumbent at-large councilor Brandy Williams also lives in this district but hasn't yet declared.)

District 4, south and southeast: Incumbent Bernie Herpin finds himself in another district, due to redistricting. Announced candidates include retired Air Force veteran Dennis Moore, Harrison School District 2 Board President Deborah Hendrix, and convicted felon and leadership-development business owner Gary Flakes (see Ranger Rich, here).

District 5, the city's central area: Candidates for this new district include incumbent Bernie Herpin; nonprofit administrator Jill Gaebler; the Rev. Al Loma; and Roger McCarville, a semi-retired apartment owner.

District 6, northeast and east: Pastor David Moore is running in this new district, as is Ed Bircham, retired small-business owner.

To run, candidates must gather 50 signatures of Springs voters by Feb. 6. — Pam Zubeck

Harbor House reincarnated

Since 2004, the Harbor House Collaborative has been providing help for Colorado Springs substance abusers.

But the agency has seen its share of bumps in the road, culminating with a financial crisis in early 2012 and the exit of its executive director, Lyn Harwell. Since then, Bob Holmes, executive director of the umbrella agency Homeward Pikes Peak, has been helping Harbor House try to right its ship.

But this winter, strained by juggling two organizations, Holmes gave Harbor's board an ultimatum: Either allow Homeward Pikes Peak to take over the nonprofit, or do without his help. The board agreed to the former. Harbor dissolved Dec. 31 and was reborn as a part of Homeward Pikes Peak on Jan. 1.

Holmes has combined the two organizations' approximately $500,000 annual budgets, bringing his new budget to around $1 million. Through cost efficiencies, he's expecting to make Harbor, which is run with federal and state grants and contracts, self-supporting. First, though, he's working to retire tens of thousands in debt.

The good news is Harbor's inpatient and outpatient clients won't likely notice a difference.

"With something like this," Holmes says, "what you want is as little noticeable change as possible for the clients." — J. Adrian Stanley

Grant Farms goes Chapter 7

Wellington's Grant Family Farms, Colorado's first certified organic farm, declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in late December, citing ongoing financial hardships. Among those listed in a media release: "Ineligibility for crop insurance coupled with millions of dollars in damage from hail storms and drought — not to mention a massive spinach recall ..."

As noted in a recent Denver Post article, the farm, which went organic in the mid-'70s, had also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2006. But Grant's six-year-old community-supported agriculture program was up to an impressive 5,300 members last year (793 of them from Colorado Springs), with hubs ranging from Pueblo to Cheyenne, Wyo. Between 2007 and 2011, the farm reports, it donated more than a million pounds (565 tons) of food to regional food banks.

The release, issued by "the voice of the Grant Family, the Farm, and the CSA team," notes that "The Farm is working hard and is hopeful that it will emerge from this disappointing situation better than it went in." Otherwise, it cited a hesitancy "to offer any specifics with regard to tomorrow."

An overview of Colorado's Chapter 7 bankruptcy specifics, provided online by Denver's McFarland Law Group, says that roughly three months after filing, one will usually receive a cancellation of "most types of debts and emerge from bankruptcy with all or most of the property" owned beforehand. — Matthew Schniper

Last Waldo money given

Bestowing $125,716 on two organizations, the Pikes Peak United Way has wrapped up disbursements from the Waldo Canyon Fire Assistance Fund.

The two most recent allocations went to the Navigators, $50,000, and the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, $75,716. Both will use the money for flood mitigation across the burn scar, the United Way said in a press release.

The fund, consisting of $125,000 from El Pomar Foundation and donations from businesses and individuals, paid out 20 grants to 18 organizations totaling $940,300. The Housing Authority of Colorado Springs and CUSP were the only ones to receive more than one grant.

The United Way came under mild criticism over the past few months for handing money to agencies rather than directly to victims of the fire. But United Way officials say the agencies do a good job of vetting recipients, a job they're not equipped to do themselves.

A six-month status report on the assistance fund's impact is due in February; the final report will come in September. — Pam Zubeck

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