**Update: February 8, 2017**
The contempt citation sought against clean-air activist Leslie Weise, and her appeal of a lower court ruling, both were dismissed Wednesday by the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Weise and Colorado Springs Utilities — which sought the contempt citation — are to pay their own attorney fees and court costs, according to the agreement …
Guest post by Gregory Olinyk, founder and managing partner of Point-of-Reference LLC (P-of-R), and resident of Colorado Springs. This column was originally published in The Gazette on January 15, 2017.
For the past two years, attorney and mother Leslie Weise has been fighting to obtain air quality records about Colorado Springs Utilities’ (CSU) Martin Drake coal-fired power plant located on the edge of downtown. At virtually every turn, she has been stonewalled or outright refused data about a deadly cloud of literally tons of sulfur, mercury, arsenic and lead that is being breathed by all of us.
This is the same utility and City Council that made a “venture capital investment” on a questionable “new” air scrubbing technology that was supposed to cost $112 million and be fully operational by 2015. Instead, it still isn’t operational and has cost $70 million over the original bid at a time when field-proven, off-the-shelf systems were available for much less.
Her demand for a recent air quality report that was paid for by we the people was denied under “attorney client privilege.” Let’s see now: The report was paid for with your tax dollars, and its contents affect every breathing thing in Drake’s service radius, but only Colorado Springs Utilities’ lawyers are allowed to see it. If you paid for it, then who is the “client” here?
Then something interesting happened: The very court that is now prosecuting the subject of this editorial was the one that inadvertently released the report to Weise. Without copying it, she promptly notified the court and returned it. So where is the crime? She verbally shared an incriminating aspect of it with a Gazette reporter that merely validated what she already suspected.
Stay with me on this: The court released the document but is not being sanctioned. The Gazette reported Weise’s verbal report and is not being sanctioned (nor should it be) – but Weise is. In other words, Colorado Springs Utilities is using “the letter of the law” as a cudgel to beat down the very person who is trying to protect the very citizenry who own CSU and paid for the report. And if they prevail, Weise could even face jail time and separation from her elementary-school-age son whom she was trying to protect from poisonous air.
But it gets better.
The City Council controls Colorado Springs Utilities (a distinct conflict of interest relative to what is good for the citizens vs. what is good for the utility). In other words, the people we elected are now using legalese to hide the reports and persecute the only person standing between your lungs and that big spewing smokestack. Is that leadership? I hold Utilities CEO Jerry Forte and the City Council in high regard. That’s what makes this ridiculous matter so sad for all of us.
Where is our mayor on this matter? Where is our county commission on this matter? They have to breathe Drake’s pollution, too. Why can’t the citizens who paid for the report simply see it and all associated data?
Why isn’t Weise being lauded, and financially rewarded, as a whistleblower? Instead of being rewarded, she is enduring massive stress and facing legal fees that could run well into the tens of thousands of dollars, while the city’s witch hunt against her has no limits because they get to fund it by — you guessed it — our tax dollars. All of us are indebted for her unflagging pro bono service and courage.
Colorado Springs wants to escape its “small-town” national image. We’ve just been handed an excellent opportunity to further that goal.
From the Styx:
During his confirmation hearing last week, Rex Tillerson was asked: “Do you support creating a national registry for American Muslims?”
The former ExxonMobil CEO did not rule out the possibility that he would support this saying: “I would need to have a lot more information around how such an approach would even be constructed, and if it were a tool for vetting, then it probably extends to other people as well, other groups that are threats to the U.S.”
They’re coming after environmental activists next.
It’s no coincidence that the court “accidentally” sent the report that Leslie Weise wasn’t supposed to see in mid-November, AFTER the election.
Leslie Weise holds a Master of Law degree from the University of Denver in Environmental and Natural Resource Law and Policy. They want to make an example of Leslie Weise.
We can’t let that happen.
… Activist mother Leslie Weise … filed a Colorado Open Records Act legal petition, arguing there is an important public interest in knowing about air pollution that residents may be inhaling. An El Paso County district court rejected her petition, and she appealed. A court clerk handling the appeal inadvertently sent her the sealed report, which Weise said she returned.
Utilities officials have hired a lawyer and are pursing penalties against Weise in a case now facing the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Colorado Springs Utilities officials declined a Denver Post request to review their Colorado Springs air study …