Bach questions 2 nominations to power plant task force

January 21, 2013
photo - A loader moves coal outside Colorado Springs Utilities' Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK/The Gazette file
A loader moves coal outside Colorado Springs Utilities' Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK/The Gazette file 

Sarah Brittain Jack and Steve Durham supported Steve Bach in his campaign to become Colorado Springs’ first strong mayor, but they’re not getting his backing to be part of a task force that will take the first steps to determine the fate of the Martin Drake Power Plant.

Bach said Monday he has nothing personal against Jack and Durham, who are among nine people recommended to serve on the task force. But he’s concerned that their professional backgrounds could create the appearance of a conflict of interest, and he hopes City Council members will take that into consideration when they vote Tuesday on whether to approve the recommended appointees.

“I have high regard for Steve Durham and Sarah Jack,” he said. “I’m just concerned that as paid lobbyists, they might taint the results. Let’s not start out this process with anyone in the community having a question about the objectivity and independence of this task force.”

Jack and Durham both deny they have a conflict. Jack said she does political and government-relations consulting work, but is not a paid lobbyist.

“I’m a ratepayer. I’m a lifetime member of this community. That would be my interest,” Jack said.

Durham is a professional lobbyist for the Colorado Private Schools Association, and he did work for an organization partially funded by the coal industry. But he wrote in a Jan. 7 email to the mayor that his work for the organization ended in February 2011.

“Since that time, I have not received — either directly or indirectly — any remuneration from the coal industry or any person or entities that have a financial concern regarding Colorado Springs Utilities,” Durham wrote. “As I noted on both my application and the follow-up questionnaire, I do have a bias toward affordable and reliable energy.”

The task force is charged with recommending a contractor to perform a study on whether to decommission the aging coal-fired Drake plant, the focus of a heated debate on whether it should be outfitted with scrubbing technology to produce cleaner energy, or decommissioned to make way for a new plant.

Task force members also will come up with the questions and issues they believe the study should address.

About 100 people applied to be on the task force, and City Councilwomen Brandy Williams and Lisa Czelatdko, co-chairs of the task force, vetted the applications and winnowed the list down to nine.

Bach said his office offered to go through the applications and do background checks, but Williams and Czelatdko turned him down. Williams hoped the mayor’s office would participate in the process, but not manage it — a task that belongs to City Council, she said.

“At the end of the day, we’re the ones who are going to be held accountable,” she said

Williams said she anticipates all nine members will receive council approval, although one councilman has said he’d like to wait until a new council is seated after the April election.

“We’ve picked a timeline, and we’re going to meet it,” Williams said. “The end of March is when we’d like to have a recommendation to bring forward.”

Bach also said he’s concerned that the nine people don’t represent all areas of the city. Williams said applicants were not asked for their addresses, but for confirmation that they are CSU ratepayers.

Who’s on board?

Colorado Springs City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on the following slate of people recommended for appointment to the Martin Drake Task Force:

• Alan Hale, retired; former vice-president and CFO, Maxim Integrated Products.

• Dan Malinaric, managing director, Atmel Corporation; former etch engineering manager, Philips Semiconductors.

• Diana Dean, professional engineer II, Colorado Department of Corrections; former base energy manager, Air Force Academy.

• Howard Brooks, executive director, Energy Resource Center; former vice-president, Pikes Peak United Way.

• Jason Doedderlein, owner, Profuturus, LLC; former business development, National Energy Services Company.

• Robert Holzwarth, consultant, Electric and Gas Utilities; former vice-president, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck, N.D.

• Sarah Brittain Jack, principal, Sarah B Jack & Associates; former executive director, El Paso County Republican Party.

• Steve Durham, executive director, Colorado Private School Association; former president, Colorado Winning Edge, Inc.

• Tom Zwirlein, faculty director, Economic Forum, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

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