Emails shed light on dismissed Council employee

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Thanks to a CORA request filed by Colorado Springs media, the city has released all emails to, from, or regarding George Culpepper, the recently hired and abruptly terminated Council legislative assistant.

Most of them are routine workplace communications (e.g., “George, your IPhone and IPad are ready for you to pick up.”), but some may give some insight into his sudden dismissal.

It’s clear that Culpepper saw himself as a Council employee who owed exclusive loyalty to that body. Whether any of these emails directly impacted Bach’s action is unknown, but they give some context to what Sherlock Holmes might have called “The Peculiar Case of George Culpepper.”

Here’s an email from Councilor Joel Miller, and Culpepper’s response.

From: Miller, Joel
Sent: Tuesday, January 07, 2014 2:12 PM To: Culpepper, George
Subject: Info request

Dear George:

I don’t know if there has been any protocol established yet for how to request research from you. I certainly don’t want to monopolize your time, but if you are available, I have a few items I’d really appreciate some insight on.

1) The Mayor’s stated intention to ignore Ordinance 13-77:

Are there any examples of other municipalities in Colorado or elsewhere that a mayor has refused to follow a duly passed ordinance? If so, how were the situations resolved? Charter para. 3-70(e) states that “If then six (6) of the members vote to pass the same over the Mayor’s veto, it shall become a finally adopted ordinance, notwithstanding the objections of the Mayor.” Charter para. 4-10 states, “The Mayor shall be the chief executive and shall enforce all laws and ordinances,” and Charter 4-40(a) states, “The Mayor shall be the chief executive and shall enforce all laws and ordinances.”

Based on the previously stated Charter requirements to enforce all ordinances, and the Mayor’s stated intention to ignore the duly attested budget ordinance, Charter 2-30 (b) suggests that failure to comply with and enforce a duly passed ordinance would result in forfeiture of office: “Forfeiture of Office. The office of Mayor or Councilmember shall be forfeited if: (2) “violate any express prohibition or requirement of this Charter.”

What is the process for filing a court injunction on the Mayor to preclude him from transferring appropriating funds between the twelve departments enumerated in ordinance 13-77?

2) City Attorney issues

Can you find any examples of other cities that have a Council-Mayor form of government with the City Attorney appointed by the Mayor that have had problems? Are there cases when cities have changed the position to an elected position? Also, are there examples that we can cite where those municipalities hire outside counsel for the City Council when a conflict arises? It’s my understanding that Denver does it fairly regularly.

Can you direct me as to how one would file a complaint with the Colorado Bar association on Chris Melcher for his failure to provide counsel to a charter-defined client?

Mr. Melcher advised the Mayor to defy ordinance 13- 77 and failed to give any counsel or recourse to City Council despite repeated requests. Furthermore Mr. Melcher’s actions to prevent Council from obtaining outside counsel has further injured City Council’s legal position with regard to the budget ordinance.

Is Chris Melcher receiving a severance package? If he resigned his position, he should not be given 6 months of severance pay. Furthermore, if there is overlap of his severance period and a subsequently appointed City Attorney, what is the means by which the Mayor would be able to appropriate the funds for such overlap?

I appreciate any help you can provide on any or all of the above. If you don’t have time to look into any of them or if there is some other process by which I should be going about to request research from you, please let me know. My Cell is …

I hope you’re liking the job so far!

Joel Miller

Colorado Springs City Council

From: Culpepper, George
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2014 8:07 AM

To: Miller, Joel
Subject: RE: Info request

Hi Joel!

I will research this for you and see what I can find. How soon do you need the information?

George Culpepper, Jr.

Legislative Assistant Colorado Springs City Council

—————-

And here’s another exchange, this time between Airport Director Dan Gallagher and Mayor Steve Bach, Keith King and Merv Bennett, concerning marijuana at the Colorado Springs Airport.

From: “Gallagher, Daniel” <dgallagher@springsgov.com>

Date: January 5, 2014 at 8:51:33 AM MST


To: “Bach, Steve G” <BGS@springsgov.com>


Subject: Council contact with Airline(s)

Mayor Bach

As an FYI, I was contacted by Alaska Airlines Corporate Real Estate section last night. Apparently the legislative aide to City Council contacted Alaska to gather their opinion on banning RMJ at COS, and to express Council’s authority regarding veto power over any proposed ordinance, IF they so desired.

I’m also not sure if this same individual has reached out to other airlines but this is not a good sign, that, again, Council chose to contact an Airport stakeholder, this time an airline, directly, without even a courtesy call to the Airport. Much like when Council directed the City Auditor’s office to contact the FAA compliance office in the past regarding the incentive and revenue guarantee program, it continues to project an sense of internal distrust and conflict between our legislative and executive branches to our business partners. I absolutely understand they have the right to make calls and do their own research, but it does not send the right message to outside parties when the Airport could have already answered their concerns.

Not an emergency, but if at all possible, I would like to spend a few minutes with you during our meeting tomorrow to discuss a potential response/action on this concern. I have a follow up call into Alaska to get additional information.

Regards

Dan Gallagher

 

Keith and Merv, please see Dan Gallagher’s below email and call me today ( ) to discuss. Thank you.

 Steve Bach 
Sent from my iPad


 King forwarded the exchange to Culpepper. Here’s his response.

Thanks.

If I knew the Airport could provide the information needed, I would have contacted them. But, considering the Airport is the main reason for the reactive nature of the issue, we have to ensure all questions are asked.

It is clear he didn’t even tell the whole story of the original email.

George Culpepper, Jr.

Legislative Assistant Colorado Springs City Council

And here’s Culpepper’s email to Alaska Airlines.

From: Culpepper, George
Sent: Friday, January 03, 2014 11:19 AM
To: ‘Jeremy.Ross@alaskaair.com’


Subject: Colorado Springs Airport allowing passengers to fly with marijuana

Importance: High

Jeremy,

A pleasure speaking with you today and thank you for your assistance.

In light of the passage of Amendment 64, Colorado can sell legal marijuana in cities that allow the retail sale. July 2013, the Colorado City Council voted not to allow retail sale of marijuana within city limits. However, as it stands, marijuana possession, of any amount, is not banned from the Colorado Springs Airport. Therefore, anyone who can fly out of the Colorado Springs airport legally with possession of marijuana can do so on any airline. Since we are a Council-Mayor form of government, the City Council has the ability to pass ordinances and override Mayoral vetoes.

The Mayor’s office is preparing an emergency ordinance, to be sent to the City Council, to ban the possession of Marijuana at the Colorado Springs Airport. However, if Council has the majority of votes to not pass the ordinance, passengers would be allowed to transport marijuana on airlines that fly out of Colorado Springs.

My questions are: What positions, if any, will the airlines take on transporting marijuana out of Colorado? Will any airlines decide to pull out of Colorado Springs if a ban of possession is not in place, creating an economic uncertainty?

I have included several news links below that discuss the Airport’s current position on marijuana enforcement and the last link is the US Department of Justice’s memo regarding federal enforcement. Please note the third bullet point of that memo.

http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/3052013829132756857467.pdf

If you have any questions, please contact me. Thank you.

George Culpepper, Jr.

Legislative Assistant Colorado Springs City Council 719.385.5250

———————-

And here’s an email exchange between King and  Culpepper regarding Gallagher’s email to Bach.

From: George


Sent: Sunday, January 05, 2014 6:18 PM


To: King, Keith

Dan should understand it is my job to get all the answers just not a few that means I have to contact people in order to have the answers I need in case council asks me. That is my job and role.

Council can’t make good decisions if they don’t have all the answers they need.

Further, in light of the difficulty we are and have been having with the Executive, we have to e proactive and not reactive.

Sent from my iPhone

From: George

Sent: Sunday, January 05, 2014 6:30 PM


To: King, Keith

That is exactly what I believe. Last thing I want is Council to make a decision based on half information and then all of you have an egg on your face because we didn’t do our jobs.

Could you imagine if Colorado Springs airport was the reason the Feds came in and shut legal marijuana down or better yet it is allowed to fly out of the airport and airlines leave? Who would get the blame? Probably council.

I believe it is my job to protect Council and further to provide all of you with all the information to make those sound decisions in the best interest of the citizens.

Sent from my iPhone

On Jan 5, 2014, at 6:21 PM, “King, Keith” <kcking@springsgov.com> wrote:
>
> Dan, no problem. As an employee of Council you have a right and actually need to makes sure we understand all the various aspects of the issue. I will forward you the email., but do not contact the Mayor or Dan until we talk again.

 Keith King

  President, Colorado Springs City Council >

By January 8, things were heating up on the airline front.  Here’s an email from Culpepper to Keith King and  Eileen Gonzalez describing his actions of January 3.

From: George


Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2014 9:06 PM

To: King, Keith

Cc: Gonzalez, Eileen

Subject: January 3, 2014

Morning of January 3, 2014 Council President Keith King came into my office to discuss issues with Annexation on the west side. After the conversation, he asked me if anything new had come up. I briefed him on the latest issue of the Colorado Springs Airport Assistant Director stating anyone can fly out of the airport with Marijuana.

I told him that I read the US Department of Justice memo and according to the memo, bullet point three, if any marijuana leaves a legal state (Colorado) to other illegal states (rest of US) there is potential the United States would come into Colorado and possibly shut legal marijuana down.

Third bullet point would apply since airlines fall under federal jurisdiction and would carry passengers who possessed marijuana on their person. More importantly, it could jeopardize what Colorado voters wanted and I advised him Colorado Springs doesn’t want to be the reason DOJ comes in.

President King asked me to research if any airline could potentially leave the City if something wasn’t in place and what positions, if any, would they take on the issue.

I, therefore, proceeded with my research as requested by the Council President.

————————

And here’s the final email in the chain.

From: Asiu, Bernard


Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2014 2:05 PM


To: Culpepper, George


Cc: Sullivan, Michael; Gonzalez, Eileen; Lessig, Tracy; Neumann, Laura

Subject: Urgent meeting with HR Director

George,

As a follow up to the just completed phone message to you (2:00 pm, Thursday), please contact Mike Sullivan, City Director of Human Resources, immediately. This request is urgent and a matter of critical importance.

Mike’s contact numbers are …

Your prompt response is greatly appreciated

Bernard Asiu

Human Resources Manager