By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
The advisory committee, which includes five city councilmembers, was kept in the dark about the city's land swap decision until its second meeting on January 11.
Groswold's memo also offers further details as to how the ski area association--which acts as the cityÕs agent and is contractually bound to operate in Denver's best interest--has attempted to manipulate the public release of information about the deal.
In the document, Groswold, who is paid $194,000 per year to run the taxpayer-owned resort, told boardmembers--including former Rocky Mountain News chairman William W. Fletcher--that all contact with the press was to be "channeled" to either himself or WPRA spokeswoman Paula Sheridan "so as to maintain control." And referring to a WPRA letter sent to the mayor and city council in September 1993, he noted that "it appears to have been picked up by the newspapers as intended, and we can claim credit for a pro-active posture."
Several councilmembers were angered by that letter, in which the WPRA announced it would no longer respond to questions or suggestions from individual elected officials, asking instead that the city form a "unified negotiating team." When councilwoman Mary DeGroot sent Kermit Darkey a letter last December questioning the basis for the ski area's nonprofit status, the association ignored the request for a month, finally responding through attorney Eugene Hohensee just hours after a Westword reporter had inquired about the delay.
The memo from Groswold also asked boardmembers for any information they could provide on members of the mayor's advisory committee, noting that it was necessary to get the committee "started in the right direction." When presented with the memo in January, Webb publicly expressed anger at Groswold's comments, accusing the WPRA president of "trying to orchestrate the outcome" of his advisory process. But the mayor was notably silent on the memo's claim that Alexander was present at the secret December meeting and agreed to keep the land-swap decision under wraps.
And not all the WPRA's attempts at orchestrating the release of information have been handled skillfully. In an apparent mixup last December, the ski resort sent a copy of the inflammatory Groswold memo to one of its leading critics, Moffat Tunnel Commissioner Walter O. Cass. The Moffat Tunnel Commission is a key player in the Winter Park deal because it owns the land on which the ski resort's base facilities are located. It signed its own 98-year lease with the WPRA in 1980--an arrangement that Cass, who had not yet been elected at the time, has since questioned.
Cass has also said that he believes the WPRA's past contracts with the tunnel commission may be void because they usurp the commission's statutory authority in favor of the ski area--a contention that, if true, could turn the Winter Park deal on its head. And among the items in the Groswold memo inadvertently mailed to Cass was the fact that the WPRA had received a call in December from Grand County Attorney Jack DiCola, who also is doing legal work for the Moffat Tunnel Commission. The commission's attorney had called, Groswold wrote, to "warn us" that Cass was apparently about to evict the ski resort.
An angry Cass revealed the memo's contents at a public meeting of the commission on January 10, accusing DiCola of going behind his own client's back. However, in a heated exchange, DiCola informed Cass that the four other commissioners had instructed him to make the call--a fact the other commissioners then hesitantly confirmed.
One of the commissioners who instructed DiCola to warn the WPRA about Cass was Bruce E. Dines, a man who has his own past ties to the ski resort. Dines was a First National vice president under Bruce Alexander at the time the bank approved the 1979 loan to the ski resort. Alexander says Dines was not directly involved with the Winter Park loan. Dines, also a member of the Moffat Tunnel Commission at the time, says he doesn't want to discuss it.
However, records indicate that in his role as a tunnel commissioner, Dines voted to approve the commission's own 1980 lease agreement with the WPRA--a document that, like the city lease signed the year before, was drafted specifically to provide security for the ski area's lenders, presumably First National among them.
After leaving First National, Dines became a director of Colorado National Bank from 1988 to 1992. According to the Groswold memo, that institution also has loans outstanding with the WPRA. Dines has not abstained from commission votes regarding Winter Park. Last year the retired banker agreed to pay $655,000 in civil penalties over an alleged insider-trading scheme in which the federal Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of tipping off his brother Eugene about an impending merger with First Bank System of Minneapolis. Under a deal with the government, Dines and his brother neither admitted nor denied guilt.
Dines's old friend Bruce Alexander, meanwhile, says he intends to continue working "in the best interest of the city" in his dealings with the