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County commissioners OK $75K settlement with Colorado Springs man

January 9, 2018 Updated: January 9, 2018 at 10:14 pm
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El Paso County will pay a $75,000 settlement to a man who was charged with a felony after threatening to publicly expose a prosecutor for "trying to convict an innocent man."

On Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr. opposed, to approve the payout for Mark Alba, a 47-year-old Colorado Springs resident who claimed he faced retaliation after he told 4th Judicial District prosecutor Sharon Flaherty he would report her to the media and his congressman for pursuing an investigation against him.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in November, Alba's attorney said he spent five days in jail and nearly a year worrying about being sentenced to up to six years in prison on the charge of attempting to influence a public official, which was filed about a month after his February 2016 phone conversation with Flaherty. The count was dismissed last January by a 4th Judicial District Court judge who cited First Amendment rights.

When Alba made the remarks to Flaherty, he was fighting other charges - which have since been dismissed - stemming from allegations that he filed a false police report. Flaherty recorded the phone conversation without Alba's knowledge, according to the complaint.

At commissioners' Tuesday meeting, Senior Assistant County Attorney Kenneth Hodges said the settlement would likely be cheaper than litigating the case because the county would need to hire outside counsel.

District Attorney Dan May and chief deputy investigator David Guest, who is accused of participating in the investigation against Alba, are also named as defendants in the complaint.

Gonzalez declined to elaborate on why he voted against the payout, saying the case is still pending.

The settlement will come from the county's risk management fund, a self-insurance fund that the county pays into every year during its regular budgeting process. Under the terms of the agreement, the $75,000 will be paid to Alba's attorney.

"This settlement shows that the El Paso County District Attorney's Office and the El Paso County Board of Commissioners realize the mistakes their prosecutor made and that they need to correct them," Alba's attorney, Adam Frank of Denver, told The Gazette on Friday.

District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lee Richards declined to comment and told The Gazette that the county was handling media requests about the settlement.

In the past month, the county has foot the bill for at least one other settlement. On Dec. 13, commissioners approved a $15,000 payout to a woman who claimed she was nearly choked to death by a "mentally unstable person" who two sheriff's deputies assigned to her courthouse holding cell.

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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