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We need answers, now

Between the Lines



For those who want the U.S. Olympic Committee to remain in Colorado Springs for decades to come, there is positive news this week.

The city is working its way out of a lawsuit by LandCo Equity Partners, and pushing toward a new agreement with the USOC. The revised details, when finalized, will be open for all to inspect and critique. Meanwhile, work continues on both the downtown USOC headquarters and the renovated office building for individual Olympic sports next to America the Beautiful Park.

But for Mayor Lionel Rivera and his possible (or perceived) conflict of interest during the Olympic-related dealings, the ordeal is far from over.

Rivera's current strategy, which he shared after the June 12 revelation that LandCo chairman Ray Marshall was one of the mayor's investment clients until late 2007, is to let the city's Ethics Commission investigation run its course. The mayor says he'll cooperate, and claims he'll come away with a clean bill of political health for his final two years in office.

Understandable goal, but given what we know today, Mr. Mayor, the time has come for you to snuff out the smoldering fire before it turns into an inferno that could damage the city for years to come. Otherwise, this controversy could be your lasting legacy — and your epitaph.

You must know you can't hide behind processes and policies. No more stonewalling. No more bureaucratic verbiage. No waiting for the Ethics Commission and its subpoenas.

The real ethics commission, in this case, has become your estimated 414,658 constituents. You must answer to them and explain everything. Immediately. They need answers, not a soap opera.

First, Rivera must make official, open requests to his company, financial giant UBS Financial Services, and to LandCo, asking permission to go public with every detail of his relationships with Marshall and LandCo, as far back as necessary. Then he must address tough questions, starting with these:

• How large were those accounts, and how much compensation did he receive, in any form, related to LandCo and Marshall?

• How much has Rivera's UBS office earned from its dealings with LandCo and Marshall? Are those accounts still active with UBS?

• As a company vice president, does Rivera receive bonuses based on the office's overall performance? Has the mayor earned ongoing residual income, such as profit-sharing, tied to LandCo and Marshall being UBS clients, and the fact that Rivera brought those accounts to UBS?

• When Rivera relinquished those accounts, did he "trade" them with any UBS associates for other accounts?

• Why didn't Rivera ask first to be separated from the LandCo and Marshall accounts, instead of waiting for Marshall to make the request?

• Why wasn't the mayor more open with others on City Council, instead of assuring them there was nothing to worry about regarding LandCo/Marshall?

• Can Rivera prove he had no conflict of interest in stopping earlier efforts to move the USOC offices north to near Interquest Parkway and Interstate 25?

If the mayor doesn't provide answers as soon as possible, it will become the other eight City Council members' duty to demand total accountability from him. Their other options would be to publicly reprimand or censure him.

Some kind of forceful action is imperative, because it appears inevitable that Council and Rivera might have to decide whether he can continue as an effective leader during such a critical, turbulent time for the cash-strapped city.

Also, beyond all this, the city must develop more concise regulations and better oversight regarding elected officials' conflicts of interest and a better-defined process for disclosing pertinent business dealings.

First, though, Rivera must re-earn the city's trust. Not by waiting on the Ethics Commission, which could mean months, but by making his entire case to the people of Colorado Springs and answering every pertinent question. After that, we'll know whether Rivera deserves to serve out his term through April 2011.

Mr. Mayor, that's your task. Your place in Colorado Springs' history is on the line. And the clock is ticking.

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