NOREEN: Water, money and the man who would be governor

May 25, 2010

Life-long Republican Dave Sarton has a problem with GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis.

Sarton, a former Colorado Springs city councilman who also served on the Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District board, claims that in his last months as a congressman in 2004, McInnis failed to keep a promise he made to back federal legislation to pave the way for the city’s Southern Delivery System.

Representing the West Slope, McInnis had good reason to squint hard at a bill that would provide money for a study of enlarging Pueblo Reservoir. The Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River District was concerned Colorado Springs would use reservoir expansion as the impetus to take more water from the Colorado River Basin.

The river district said it would support the federal bill for the Preferred Storage Option Plan study as long as SDS wouldn’t constitute yet another raid on West Slope water. Sarton, an insider as a water district board member, says McInnis adopted that stance as well. By November 2004 a deal was worked out. The river district was happy and issued a press release: “West Slope water providers can continue to manage their Colorado River basin water supplies without interference from East Slope entities.”

Then McInnis, on his way out as congressman, blocked the federal legislation anyway, and no bill ever passed.

“It was our understanding it had his tacit approval,” Sarton said. “McInnis still couldn’t come through. He screwed a major part of his constituency, as well as Colorado Springs and Aurora. He was not honest and up-front.”

Why would McInnis flip-flop?

“At that time he had concerns about it,” said McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy Tuesday, a full week after the campaign was first asked for a comment. The lawyer-lobbyist who would be governor wasn’t available for comment.

Sarton and others have suggested that one such “concern” is that McInnis was on his way to a job as a lobbyist for Hogan and Hartson, a lobbying company (see my blog) that had been hired by Pueblo Chieftain publisher Bob Rawlings to fight the water project. Viewed from that angle, it looks like McInnis was beginning to represent his future employer when he was still supposed to be representing the people who elected him.

“That is an unfair and untrue accusation,” Duffy said.

Sarton says he might vote for Republican Dan Maes in the GOP primary, and he might even vote for Democrat John Hickenlooper. But there’s no way he’ll vote for McInnis.

“Politics has nothing to do with this other than the character of the individual involved,” Sarton said. “He made some promises he didn’t follow through on.”

Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM or 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. Fridays and read his blog updates at


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