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Stopping the leaks


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Whoever leaked an e-mail El Paso County Attorney Bill Louis wrote to the Board of County Commissioners might want to keep his or her head down.

BOCC Chair Amy Lathen says commissioners may investigate how the e-mail she considers privileged attorney-client communication ended up in the hands of a Gazette reporter. She believes the disclosure violated the Colorado Open Records Act.

Asked if the commissioners will discuss an investigation, Lathen says, "I hope we will."

The e-mail alleged that David McDermott, attorney for local contractor Scott Bryan, suggested that campaign contributions would go to three county commissioners if they'd vote to close a $2.1 million lease-purchase deal on Bryan's building at 4455 Arrowswest Drive.

Commissioners Sallie Clark, Dennis Hisey and Amy Lathen vigorously deny any corruption scheme. District Attorney Dan May opted not to investigate; a deputy DA wrote in a report of the inquiry that "there is not sufficient evidence to open or conduct an investigation."

At issue is Louis' Nov. 4 e-mail to commissioners about a possible bribe offer involving the Arrowswest building, which the county is acquiring for use by Colorado State University Extension and two nonprofits — Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Pikes Peak Region and Goodwill Industries of Colorado Springs — who contract with the county. The deal had been shelved until cost estimates for remodeling the interior could be obtained, and deals worked out with tenants to pay for that work.

In the e-mail, Louis cited a phone conversation with McDermott, on behalf of Bryan.

"My understanding of the relevant statement(s)," Senior Deputy DA Robyn Cafasso recounted in her report, "was a concern by the County that perhaps Scott Bryan was bribing the County when contract negotiations fell through and Bryan stated that he had checks made out but he was not going to send them unless the parties had a deal or an extension of the contract."

But when May, Cafasso and Deputy DA Lanny Anderson met that day with Louis, County Administrator Jeff Greene, Lathen and Commissioner Darryl Glenn, Louis backpedaled, saying no mention of campaign money had been made, according to the report and to May's comments in an interview.

On Nov. 9, Louis contacted McDermott to clarify. "McDermott related that he did not recall making the statements," Anderson wrote, based on Louis' verbal report. He noted McDermott said his comment was meant to "convey his client's frustration with the slow process."

Louis declined to comment for this story.

Glenn, who opposes the Arrows-west deal because he says the county doesn't need more space, called May but says he didn't leak the e-mail. "I have an ethical obligation under the Bar and as a commissioner to get to the bottom of it, get it out there and move on," says the attorney, adding that he's satisfied with May's non-investigation.

Lathen calls Louis' e-mail an "overreaction" and Hisey agrees, saying commissioners have "counseled" Louis on it.

"I think if he had a concern, he should have handled it in a different manner," Hisey says, by taking the issue to the county attorney's liaison commissioners: Lathen and Clark.

Given that May didn't investigate, Auddie Cox, who's challenging Hisey in next year's election, says he'll ask the FBI to do so. Other challengers second that motion.

"We can't let this be pushed under the rug," says Karen Magistrelli, who's opposing Clark.

Phil McDonald, running against Lathen, says simply, "I smell something fishy."


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