Off Limits

The Denver Broncos managed to score big in the legislature this year, winning the okay to conduct a November begathon for $266 million in taxpayer funding (plus $75 million for the inevitable cost overruns) for Pat Bowlen's new pigskin theme park. While the Great Patsby passed around the champagne to celebrate, his hardworking huddle of well-paid lobbyists had already managed to open the gullets of numerous statehouse pols, who proved eager to let themselves be wined and dined on Patsby's tab.

The Broncs managed to hire just about every lobbyist they could tackle this year in their rush to a financial windfall. Legendary fixers Wally Stealey, Bill Artist, Frank "Pancho" Hays and the formidable Steve Farber were all signed on. Stealey, Artist and Hays split $20,000 in Broncos cash as part of the lobbying gangbang, but the Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Strickland boys really got their hands deep inside Patsby's pockets. That firm--which sent attorneys Farber, Cole Finnegan, Gary Reiff and Ted Trimpa into the crush--collected approximately $10,000 a month from the team during the session.

Stealey seems to have been charged with the task of entertaining Colorado's fun-loving politicos. Records on file at the secretary of state's office show he spent hundreds of dollars buying food and drinks for the happy tipplers, including state senator Elsie Lacy, who sponsored the stadium bill in the Senate. Other recipients of Bronco food and drink tickets included representatives Vickie Agler, Debbie Allen, Norma Anderson, Jack Taylor and Brad Young. Senators Rob Hernandez and Jim Rizzuto were similarly feted--but a handful of legislators apparently still know how to see clearly through a gimlet glass, since Hernandez, Rizzuto and Young all went on to vote against the Broncos' bill.

It was Representative Doug Dean who got the real booty prize, though. The Colorado Springs Republican, who sponsored the Broncos' bill in the House, was given $300 worth of Denver Nuggets tickets by the Brownstein firm. Considering the pathetic performance of the Nuggs this year, maybe Deano should ask for a refund.

Do the math: Butt-covering seems to be a popular elective in the Denver Public Schools these days. At last week's school-board meeting, close to a dozen high-school principals and other administrators were scheduled to speak in response to Joseph C'de Baca, the contentious social studies teacher who has charged that the DPS brass has been cooking the books to boost graduation rates ("Zero for Conduct," April 23). Most of the speakers deferred to former West High principal Ed Cordova, who gave an impassioned fifteen-minute rebuttal to C'de Baca's claims of lax discipline, excessive credit waivers and other shenanigans. But while Cordova emphatically denied any sort of "conspiracy" in the top echelon of DPS, what little hard data he provided seemed to confirm at least some of what C'de Baca and several other teachers had claimed, particularly in the area of credits being waived to allow seniors to graduate. The now-retired Cordova admitted to granting nine such waivers last year; other DPS officials had told Westword that one of two waivers over several years would be typical. Add to that the number of students allowed to substitute other courses for required English or math classes, and roughly one of every ten 1997 West graduates took an unusual route to their sheepskin ceremony. Yet most of the counter-attack was focused on C'de Baca personally rather than the issues. School-board member Lee White called the teacher a "goofball" and "a bump on the road to progress." Fellow teacher Alan Chimento blasted C'de Baca as a "bad teacher" who was absent an average of one day a week when he taught at West. C'de Baca, who was scheduled to rebut the rebutters but instead left the crowded meeting early, says he was merely exercising his rights as a disgusted DPS employee. "Of course I took my sick days," he says. "Wouldn't you?"

Board to tears: C'de Baca isn't the only one who's been playing the dozens with the DPS board lately. Boardmember White, an investment banker who moonlights as a financial consultant to Pat Bowlen on the Broncos stadium issue when he isn't tackling education issues (L.W.'s job: helping P.B. line up the loans necessary to cover his share of the costs), was apparently none too pleased when a group of disgruntled Hispanic parents showed up to stage a protest outside his 17th Street office a couple of weeks back. Padres Unidos, a group lodged in a long-running battle with DPS over how best to address bilingual education, distributed fliers at the event declaring White "Guilty!!" of obstruction of justice because kids with limited English proficiency fare poorly in the DPS system. While they were at it, they added that he is an "ineffective political hack."

The strong words drew a strong response from a hacked-off DPS last week. District public-information officer Mark Stevens fired off a letter of complaint to the Chinook Fund, a local charitable foundation that helps bankroll Padres Unidos. In his missive, Stevens not so subtly suggested that the fund should cut the protesters off. "We assume that you would rather not support a group that relies on such tactics," wrote Stevens, adding that the get-Whitey flier was full of "mean-spirited lies and imagery." For now, though, it looks as though DPS will have to live with Padres Unidos's bedeviling tactics. According to Chinook Fund executive director Mike Roque, his group supports "liberal and progressive and radical organizations that don't have access to traditional funding"--and has no intention of turning off the tap. "We're kind of upset that DPS would actively try to seek to undermine a group's funding," notes Roque.

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