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Public Eye

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When the Independent hit the streets last Thursday, Halloween, an obviously well-organized group ransacked at least 20 of the newspaper's distribution boxes inside the boundaries of Senate District 11.

Specifically, this group inserted flyers of an illegally copied Denver Post column inside each paper in an effort to discredit the Independent.

Now what could possibly have offended these persons so much to tamper with the Independent? Let's see. The flyer was strategically placed in front of a page 13 eye-popper of a story detailing how Republican County Commissioner Ed Jones sat inside a seedy bar in the middle of the workday while drug deals went down in front of his eyes. (If you missed it, check out www.csindy.com, where you can also listen to exclusive audio tapes of newly-elected state Senator Jones partying inside his favorite now-closed bar.)

Luckily, we were tipped off by reader Walter Sargent, and Indy employees thwarted the trespassing miscreants by fanning out and removing an estimated 1,000 pieces of offensive material from the molested copies of the newspaper.

Now, it doesn't take Inspector Clouseau to deduce that the perpetrators were likely Republican operatives. But we want names.

The Independent is offering a $1,000 cash reward to anyone who provides information that leads to the conviction of the person or persons who committed these crimes. If you're in the know, leave a message for Colorado Springs Police Officer S. Robles, who is investigating the case, at 444-7000.

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs native Tom Harold is incensed over how county Republican Party Chairman Chuck Broerman -- who is also Gov. Bill Owens' $60,000-per-year local economic development appointee -- might get a pass for providing false information to the City in an effort to obtain parking-meter hoods for political purposes.

After an Independent story detailing the fraud broke on Oct. 17, District Attorney Jeanne Smith, a Republican, declined to pursue the matter. The City Attorney's office, meanwhile, hemmed and hawed and said they might look into it.

Upon hearing this, Harold fired off an e-mail to the City Council telling them that it would be an "insult to the citizens of Colorado Springs that charges might not be filed."

"It is amazing that the City Attorney is saying that [the] CSPD has to verify the facts," Harold noted. "How hard is that? Let's see, pull the parking permit application, interview the Parking Manager, confirm that the address provided is non-existent and interview the witnesses that saw the vehicle parked there. Case closed."

Thank you, Inspector Clouseau. If only the City had you on its team.

This week -- nearly two weeks after the Independent reported the Broerman caper -- the city attorney's office announced that the City planned to investigate the matter after all.

The City's heel-dragging, Harold noted, sends a clear message that public figures can do anything they please.

"We're saying that short of rape, murder and grand theft, it's OK to go ahead and break the law," Harold said. "What happens if I get pulled over and I give bad information to a police officer?"

We all know the answer to that.

City Councilman Charles Wingate is also outraged about the perception that, in Orwellian fashion, all citizens are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Wingate himself is currently facing five felonies and a misdemeanor mostly related to alleged unauthorized purchases of pizza using a city utilities credit card. And frankly, he doesn't understand why the City can't seem to figure out whether Broerman committed fraud.

In addition, Wingate is furious that Ed Jones' campaign manager Bob Gardner, himself a former El Paso County Republican Party chairman, was able to demand -- and get -- an internal affairs investigation against a police officer who had been interviewed by the Independent for an Oct. 10 news story before it even appeared.

Not only did the commander of the Colorado Springs Police Department's internal affairs unit himself conduct the investigation, but he reported his findings within two days directly to Gardner -- who, last we checked, is not on the city payroll.

"No one should be able to intimidate a police officer with an internal investigation," said Wingate, who says he plans to take the matter up with City Manager and former Police Chief Lorne Kramer.

And finally, Wingate is disgusted that District Attorney Smith, who contributed $100 to Ed Jones' campaign, did not pursue an investigation into the county commissioner's possible knowledge of cocaine deals inside a bar in the middle of the day, presumably when he should have been working on behalf of county taxpayers.

"My wife was livid," Wingate said. "Everyone in the Republican Party can break the rules except me."

-- degette@csindy.com

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