December 14, 2012
The City Attorney’s Office is reviewing an ethics complaint against an outspoken Colorado Springs councilman.
The complaint against Tim Leigh was filed by David Neumann, the inventor of a scrubber technology at the center of a high-stakes debate over the future of the coal-fired power plant downtown.
“Our office will be taking appropriate action,” City Attorney Chris Melcher said Friday.
Neumann, CEO of Neumann Systems Group, Inc., accuses Leigh of what he calls a “vendetta” against his company and Colorado Springs Utilities.
The city-owned utility, which Leigh has criticized, is bankrolling Neumann’s emissions control technology, which is being installed at the aging Martin Drake Power Plant downtown. The plant is the subject of intense community discussion — some arguing that it should be shut down, others noting such a move would drive up power costs. The Sierra Club, meanwhile, has filed a notice of intent to sue Utilities over what it says are violations of the federal Clean Air Act.
Neumann alleges that Leigh has committed “numerous wrongful acts potentially in violation of his fiduciary and other duties” as a Utilities Board member.
Leigh declined to be interviewed but said in a statement that he welcomes the investigation because it will likely show that Utilities has “unnecessarily spent” up to $40 million more than needed to comply with regional haze rules at the Drake power plant.
“NSG’s call for an ethics investigation feels like a politically motivated bullying tactic designed to add another layer of smoke and obfuscation to a conversation designed to protect NSG’s self interests,” Leigh said. “At this point we must remove the cult-of-personality from the conversation and objectively peer through fog of war to discover facts unemotionally.”
Leigh also called for a broader ethics investigation that would include the utility’s dealings with Nuemann and its employees and managers, plus the previous board.
“The entire decision-making process around this project should be discussed,” he said.
“The CEO and his executive managers should be held accountable for this egregious policy blunder and specifically, (CEO) Jerry Forte’s leadership skills questioned.”
Neumann, through his attorneys, initially sent a letter to Melcher on Nov. 27, asking him to initiate an investigation into Leigh’s conduct. Allegations included that Leigh tried to broker an investment deal with Neumann’s company and an investment group from Leigh’s native North Dakota that Leigh “purported to represent,” according to the letter.
On Monday, Neumann followed up with a request for an ethics investigation.
IN OTHER CITY HALL NEWS
Mayor Steve Bach held a press conference Friday and touched on several topics, including:
• 2013 budget
“I want to thank our City Council for passing that budget. I’m not in a position where I need to veto anything. That’s a pleasure, honestly, that we were able to come to an agreement.”
Bach said the “pathway” to funding stormwater includes three prongs, including growing the economy, continuing to find efficiencies within the city government, and for council to direct Colorado Springs Utilities to find efficiencies.
“We should be able to find, in my opinion, tens of millions of dollars that we can redeploy for stormwater.”
• Panhandling hearing
“With respect to my testimony, here is what I said: I said that downtown solicitation of all forms is a persistent problem as told to us by merchants and residents throughout the city and the region as well as tourists. So it’s not just panhandling. It’s solicitation of all forms (that) has reached a level that is a real problem, and I’m talking not just about panhandling, but also charitable and religious and political solicitation.”
• Sierra Club
“I want to make this very clear. I have had no meetings or conversations with the Sierra Club, any of its representatives or advocates or any other environmental group.”
• Martin Drake Power Plant
“I have no interest in the Martin Drake site for a baseball stadium, and I challenge those in the print media who continue to spread the urban legend on those matters to come forth with facts to back up those allegations.”
• Colorado Springs Utilities
“My interest in Colorado Springs Utilities is simply in making sure we have continuing, high quality, reliable utilities at the lowest cost to the ratepayers. My interest further is in making sure we use ratepayer money wisely. And lastly, that we make sure that we have sound business practices at the city’s largest enterprise.”
• City Attorney Chris Melcher
“Council acting as the utility board directed Mr. Melcher to meet with the Sierra Club.
You can fact check that. He did not do that on his own. He has not been freelancing as has been suggested.”
Contact Daniel Chacón: 476-1623
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