Tee Time for Norm?

Denver's former DA has his irons in the fire at City Park's troubled golf course.

Questions are already being raised about the second request for proposals. "I think that's not an appropriate thing to do," says City Councilman Ted Hackworth. "That's really confusing to me."

Hackworth says parks officials appear to feel pressured to wrap up a concession deal at City Park. At a January 22 city council committee meeting, he says, Woodard and parks planning and design boss Rod Lister said they were considering approving Early and Kellum's first bid despite MOCC's objections--and even though the 15 percent of gross revenues Wilnor was proposing to pay the city was half what the city's own golf consultant has said should be available off concession contracts. The reason, Hackworth says, was that the city perceived an urgent need to fill the void left by Taylor. "They said, 'We need to move pretty expediently,'" he adds.

Woodard says that the City Park course is in need of improvements and that the city can't match the $500,000 capital investment that was pledged in Early and Kellum's first bid. But Hackworth is skeptical. Under existing city guidelines, says the councilman, golf concessionaires get to keep any improvements they pay for, including everything from golf carts to restaurant tables and chairs. That would make an investment by Early and Kellum seem a little less altruistic, he notes. Add to that the dependable nature of the clientele at city courses, he says, and running a golf course for Denver doesn't begin to look so risky after all.

Having just cleaned up the mess left by Taylor, the city auditor's office also has expressed doubts about installing a new concessionaire at City Park. Once outside contractors have signed a deal, says public-relations director Romaine Pacheco, they can always attempt to renegotiate the percentage of revenues shared with the city.

The unusual trajectory of the City Park RFP has already sparked suspicions that Mayor Webb may once again be attempting to influence a city contract on Kellum's behalf. "I wouldn't doubt that at all," says Hackworth. "It would be consistent with what the mayor's done in the past, taking care of his friends." Some observers say Kellum may even have been recruited by administration officials, in part to overcome Early's lack of concessions experience.

Woodard says the city is simply protecting its economic interests at City Park. Denver, he says, can't afford to pay for necessary capital improvements itself and would welcome Early and Kellum's money. He assumes that the new business partners have devised a plan under which they'll turn a profit at the golf course. "They're not successful because they're dumb," Woodard says.

And when it comes to doing business with government agencies, even those who occasionally get a bad lie have a way of ending up on the green. Sam Taylor, whom Denver has accused of deliberate fraud in concealing his income, had a little help in opening up his new restaurant: a $435,000 loan guarantee from the federal Small Business Administration.

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