Off Limits

Air today, gone tomorrow: Republicans aren't the only ones who've been converging on San Diego recently. A bevy of nine Denver public servants had a grand old party of their own in the California sun last week, jetting southwest for a four-day regional conference of the Airports Council International trade group, courtesy of the city's airport revenue fund. City council members Cathy Reynolds, Happy Haynes, Ed Thomas and Ted Hackworth all boned up on pressing aviation issues at the three-star Marriott Hotel & Marina hard by scenic San Diego Bay. Also representing the citizenry of Denver--and, presumably, enjoying the 24-hour room service and bathroom phones offered by the high-rise hotel--were no fewer than five representatives from the city's aviation department. Answering "here" when the dinner bell rang each night were deputy directors Vicki Braunagel, Norm Witteveen and Diane Koller, along with chief airport lawyer Lee Marable and, of course, aviation director Jim DeLong.

DeLong didn't have much choice in the matter--as the new regional chairman for ACI, he gets invited to nearly all of the Geneva, Switzerland-based group's confabs, which are held throughout the world. Though his duties for the trade group require him to be away from Denver almost as often as he's home, "Long Gone" DeLong continues to draw his full city salary of $138,480.

House arrest: After embattled Denver Housing Authority director Sal Carpio left an alcoholism treatment center last week (his third stay since 1989), Rocky Mountain News reporter Kevin Flynn, who's known Carpio for fifteen years, dropped by his house, hoping to get an interview. He and Carpio were in the kitchen, mid-chat, when the phone rang. It was DHA attorney Cynthia Jones, who'd done most of the non-speaking for the DHA board after Channel 9 aired Paula Woodward's tapes that documented Carpio drinking--and driving--on the job. Carpio told Jones he was talking to Flynn. Stop that immediately, she told him: They'd made a "deal" with the Denver Post, giving that paper an exclusive, first interview with Carpio. At that, Carpio clammed up.

Another day, another dismal fumble by the DHA in its handling of the Carpio caper (the agency's first mistake: failing to respond to Woodward). But at least in the beginning, the DHA was bumbling all on its own. Now it's hired a public-relations firm, Burks, Butler & Esposito, committing up to $25,000 for some professional, if preferential, spin control. The terms of the firm's contract apparently do not include returning phone calls--although both the DHA and the mayor's office referred media inquiries to the PR firm, reporters (Flynn included) say, the flacks failed to call back. Nor do they seem to call for coaching Carpio in preparation for his public appearances. When Carpio finally gave his come-one, come-all press conference Thursday, he admitted he had an "alcohol problem," then vowed he'd never drink and drive--on the job--again.

"I have a long journey ahead," said Carpio. No kidding. For starters, how about vowing not to drink and drive off the job, too?

Preacher's fret: In Sunday's News, readers' representative Jean Otto devoted two paragraphs to gripes concerning a September 30 article about Calvary Temple and its pastor, Charles Blair. Although author Jean Torkelson had made reference to Blair's conviction for securities fraud in the Seventies, most of the piece--headlined "Pastor's Vitality Fills Calvary Temple"--was dedicated to his "dynamic spirituality" that attracts 3,000 people each Sunday.

His cup runneth over. And so did attorney Dan Lynch's temper when he read the piece. "This guy is still raising money," complains Lynch. "A lot of money, if 3,000 people are coming." Lynch wasn't the only one irritated by Torkelson's story and unassuaged by Otto's tepid response. So were his clients, elderly people who lost their shirts when they invested in Blair's retirement-home scheme twenty years ago and subsequently received only a fraction of the proceeds from Blair's 1986 "Second Mile" campaign that promised to repay his fleeced flock (Blair kept $600,000 of that kitty). Local papers, including Westword, have reported Blair's sorry saga in some detail. "For God's sake, doesn't your paper have any sense of history?" Cheryl Miller asked in her letter to the News. "He bilked hundreds of old folks out of their money. The only way he stayed out of prison was to promise to raise money to repay them. He, of course, did not do that.

 
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