Ethics Commission narrows scope of Leigh investigation

The city’s ethics commission has decided to narrow its investigation of City Councilor Tim Leigh to three allegations related to actions he took regarding Neumann Systems Group.

The commission, at the same time, said it could not investigate several other allegations — including those that said Leigh had made negative public statements, had interacted with special interest groups — because those were protected speech under the First Amendment.

However, the group agreed that it would investigate Leigh for allegations of seeking personal gain through a Utilities vendor, conflict of interest based on direct or indirect financial interests in downtown properties affected by possibly closing the Martin Drake Power Plant, and engaging in activities “that may create or does create the appearance of impropriety,” according to a letter sent to Leigh by the city’s ethics commission.

The letter said the city would launch an investigation starting Jan. 15, and Leigh had two weeks from the date of the letter to respond. He also can suggest people the commission should interview on his behalf.

CEO Dave Neumann, who announced his resignation today but remains as head of the company’s board of directors, filed three separate ethics complaints with the city against Leigh, with a final letter to City Attorney Chris Melcher, accusing him of “extreme prejudice” for not acting on the allegations.

In the letters calling for an investigation, Neumann said Leigh had made false statements about the company, and acted inappropriately in his role as a city councilor.

“First, starting at least in June of this year, Mr. Leigh became making false and libelous statements about NSG,” said the letter from attorneys Scott Barker and Joel Neckers.

Then, the letter said, he suggested that Colorado Springs start looking at redeveloping the land around the Drake plant into a baseball stadium.

“As a commercial real estate developer, Mr. Leigh’s financial interest in the redevelopment of the land surrounding the Drake plant is obvious, particularly where his company, Hoff & Leigh, issued the June 19 and July 15 reports and currently lists no less than six properties on its website that are located near the Drake facility.”

The letter goes on to say that in September 2012, Leigh attempted to broker “an investment deal with NSG and an investment group from North Dakota that Mr. Leigh purported to represent.”

The letter closes by saying Leigh’s work is “clouded by a conflict of interest and a bias against NSG.” It asks that Leigh refrain from voting on NSG or any matter related to the company.

“We are also preparing to move forward with a civil complaint against Mr. Leigh to address the harm he has caused NSG and to stop Mr. Leigh from taking further action that could harm NSG in the event your office and the City Council fails to investigate Mr. Leigh’s apparent conflict of interest.”

Leigh didn’t take the allegations lying down, sending out a market report that called for a grand jury investigation into Colorado Springs Utilities leaders for agreeing to the contract with NSG. He said it was an example of inadequate controls over the Utilities staff.

“David Neumann called for an ethics investigation into my character and motivation because in my capacity as a city councilor and CSU board member, [a public official with a fiduciary duty to protect the citizens], I challenged convention and peeked behind the red curtain at CSU,” Leigh said in the market report. “I exposed the wizard and poked the sacred cow. I questioned Jerry Forte’s agreement to an open-ended contract with a vendor who provided only hope and dreams and I continue to question his [Forte’s] leadership and decision making skills. It’s a New Year and it’s time for a change at the top.”

Click here to read the letter from the ethics commission