A weekly dive into the pages of Colorado Politics' predecessor, The Colorado Statesman, which started in 1898:
Forty Years Ago This Week: Whistleblower George Lanes, a former employee of the Colorado Department of Revenue, wrote publicly about the personal fallout he had experienced after spotlighting revenue officials’ failure to deposit tax funds.
Lanes wrote to The Colorado Statesman, “Some may argue that corruption in government is a victimless crime, but that’s not true for me.”
Prior to entering government in 1977, Lanes was a much sought-after management specialist. In early 1978, he presented evidence to state auditors that Colorado Department of Revenue officials were involved in fraud.
In 1979, the Colorado General Assembly ordered an investigation into the matter, but Lanes said the probe was a sham.
In a serious allegation involving top-level officials, including State of Colorado Auditor Robert J. Scott, Lanes said Scott and others had convinced the Legislature to instead spend 1980 prosecuting him for his "insubordination rather than protecting me for whistling for help as the law would seem to prescribe.”
That year (1980), the 52nd General Assembly had revised the criminal code (C.R.S. 18-8-115) that required citizens to report crime wherever found — making it stronger and more clear — and passed protective legislation (C.R.S. 24-50.5-101) that made it safe for state employees to report what they observed within government.
But these statutory moves had not gone far enough to offer him protection, Lanes claimed. He closed a letter to the media with a plea to the 53rd General Assembly to grant him and his family emergency relief, because he had been “blocked from drawing unemployment," he wrote, and had been "blackballed from other government jobs, discredited from obtaining non-government jobs” and was, as a result, unable to pay his bills.
Twenty Years Ago: In a sobering report, the Governor’s Civil Justice Reform Task Force concluded that the state's civil justice system was “approaching crisis” due to overloaded court dockets.
Gov. Bill Owens said, “Case filings in Colorado’s trial courts have grown by 85% since 1980, yet the number of new district judges has increased only 12%.” While a trial judge had been able to devote an average of 58 minutes to each case in 1980, this had dwindled to a mere 42 minutes in 2001.
“Reversing this trend is a matter of simple fairness,” Owens said.
Sen. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, and Rep. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, sponsored Owen’s bipartisan task force legislation to add 24 new district court judges at the cost of $2.2 million to the state.
Owens announced he was also working with the Colorado judiciary on pilot projects to establish a specialized business court system and to expand the use of alternative dispute resolution techniques, like mediation and arbitration, to further reduce the strain on the courts.
Fifteen Years Ago: With the general election 10 months away — a blink of an eye in campaign season — Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was telling sources that he was getting pressure from all sorts of people to run for governor.
“People have been throwing money at me to run, Republicans as well as Democrats,” Hickenlooper said. “But I’m just not there yet.”
As precinct caucuses were scheduled to begin in early March and county assemblies shortly thereafter, any candidate seeking to grab the nomination via the caucus route was under a time crunch.
Colorado’s head of the AFL-CIO, Steve Adams, said the timetable was a huge concern.
“If Hickenlooper doesn’t get into the race very soon,” Adams warned, “we’re going to endorse Ritter at the end of this month.”
Former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter announced his candidacy in late 2005 and had already raised half a million dollars, but a large portion of pro-choice Democrats weren’t keen on his candidacy. While generally popular, Ritter’s anti-abortion stance prevented him from landing universal Democratic support.
Democrats were also eying House Majority Leader Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder, as a potential candidate, but Madden shrugged them off, saying she was too busy with other aspects of her life.
Ritter, however, remained unfazed, according to his campaign's spokesman, Evan Dreyer.
“His eye is on the horizon and he’s not distracted about who’s getting into the race,” Dreyer said. “Bill has the thickest skin of anyone I’ve ever met. His spirits are extremely high. We are moving forward towards November.”
Rachael Wright is the author of the Captain Savva Mystery series, with degrees in Political Science and History from Colorado Mesa University, and is a contributing writer to Colorado Politics and the Colorado Springs Gazette.