By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Sam Riddle, the $10,000-a-month special consultant to Buckley, says that by actively helping Incampo investigate the disappearance of bingo money, the inspectors would have been stepping outside of their job descriptions, which he describes more as ensuring compliance with, rather than enforcing violations of, bingo laws. "We're not going to just give the Lakewood Police Department an investigator," he says.
Riddle explains that his investigators in the past have pursued bingo cases more aggressively than they should have. "They're not an appendage of the police, no matter if they're wannabe cops acting like junior Gestapo agents," he says of his office's own inspectors. "And if any of those little fuckers have a problem with it, they can get with me on it."
The investigation into Southwest Denver Little League wasn't the first time that Buckley made a decision in favor of the bingo industry--which almost exclusively has funded her two election campaigns--over her own inspectors. Ever since being elected secretary of state in 1994, she has seemed reluctant to allow her investigators to build cases against those who seemed to be using bingo to misappropriate the proceeds; at times, her policy has allowed the games to continue, even with hints of shady doings.
"Investigation reports just vanish once she gets ahold of them," says one person familiar with the office. Examples abound of cases in which state bingo inspectors have uncovered what seemed to be compelling evidence of wrongdoing against games managers, only to watch them evaporate once the secretary of state became involved ("The Buckley Stops Here," September 17, 1998).
In one three-year-old case, two members of the Doyle family--Kevin Doyle and his father, Homer--sat on the boards of a handful of charitable organizations that ran bingo games to raise money. But once the money was collected, it all seemed to be donated to other Doyle-controlled organizations. Two state inspectors were looking into the complex network of apparent self-dealing when Buckley pulled them off the case. No one else was assigned to look into the case; the Doyles, who were never charged with any wrongdoing, continue to run numerous bingo games throughout the city ("Buy the Number," March 20, 1997, and "In a Pickle," August 7, 1997). In an interview with Westword two years ago, Buckley said her office had begun an investigation into the Doyle family. Today, however, investigators say that inquiry has died.
A year ago, an almost identical operation revolving around a nonprofit agency called Missionary Flights came to the attention of inspectors. Tens of thousands of dollars raised through bingo games crisscrossed between it and three other organizations sharing the same group of games managers. Yet Buckley discouraged her inspectors from pursuing the case. Today, all of the people involved are still running bingo games; no charges were ever brought (although one games manager gave up his lease voluntarily).
While the secretary of state's office was standing down on the Southwest Denver Little League case, Lambrecht was completing the second part of her audit, this time of the league's Pickle books. Her findings: another $30,000-plus missing over the four-year period--for a grand total of nearly $250,000 that had vanished on Sedillos's watch.
So it came as somewhat of a surprise when, in May 1998, Mike Sedillos filed a lawsuit against the Southwest Denver Little League. In it, he claimed that during his time leading the organization, he had injected more than $33,000 of his own money to keep the league afloat. Now that he was leaving the organization, he wanted it back, and the league was balking at paying the bill.
As Sedillos explained in the filing, "the annual registration fee to be paid by each team member to the league was insufficient to meet all expected expenses of the teams and the league...Fund raising efforts of the league (i.e., bingo) were held, but were insufficient to meet all expenses of the league...To sustain the league during this period of time [Sedillos] would lend or advance the league monies, when needed, to meet the on-going expenses."
Within a few weeks, the league had hired a lawyer and fired back with its own account of events. Not only was there some question about how much money the league owed its former president (everyone agrees he put some of his own money to help out; many volunteers do), but Southwest Denver Little League had its own beef with the Sedillos family. Namely, that they swiped more than $200,000 over four years of bingo supervision.
However, as the case unfolded this spring, it soon become apparent that the league had the weaker case. Sedillos had kept receipts showing that he had, in fact, lent money to the league. And although some dispute remained over how much the league had repaid him, league officials were forced to concede that their record-keeping had been less than meticulous.
As far as its counter-claims went, the only thing the league had against Sedillos was the apparent disappearance of a quarter-million dollars while he and his family exercised control over the league and its finances. Sedillos referred Westword's questions about the dispute to his lawyer, Steve Goldstein, who did not return phone calls. But in legal filings, Sedillos simply claimed that the missing money never existed, a stance that proved to be defense enough.