Hall of Shame 1999

Although Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were an impossibly horrific act to follow, others gave it a shot.

John Stone
As chaos reigned inside Columbine High School on April 20, Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone told reporters that as many as 25 people could be dead as a result of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's rampage. Eight months later he defended those erroneous statements, telling the Rocky Mountain News that he was just giving out the best information he had at the time. "I think the public's got a right to know," he said.

The same day that article appeared in the News, however, Time magazine was publishing detailed accounts of videotapes that Harris and Klebold had made in the weeks leading up to the massacre -- tapes that Stone had refused to show the victims' families or local reporters, despite his earlier pronouncements about the public's "right to know." Stone claimed he'd been snookered by the Time reporter he'd allowed to see the tapes for background only; by trusting the journalist, he said, he "made a mistake." But by then, Columbine families had had enough of John Stone's mistakes. Outraged by what they viewed as his officers' timid first response at the school, as well as Stone's frequently too-hasty and fictitious blabbing to the press (four days before Christmas, Jeffco finally admitted that Harris's friend Brooks Brown was cleared of any complicity), by last week, eight of the thirteen families of those killed at Columbine were calling for Stone's resignation.

Stone's defenders say his handling of the investigation has been ethical and professional, that he's done as well as anyone could under horrendous circumstances. We say Stone ought to make up his mind. Does the public have a right to know -- in which case the tapes should have been released long ago (thus avoiding the holiday crush) -- or should the public remain as clueless as the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department?

Alex Hunter
Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter can thank his law-enforcement colleague to the south for taking some of the public's heat. But Coloradans are still simmering -- and rightly so -- over the incredibly slow pace of the JonBenét Ramsey case. In 1998, Hunter earned a Hall of Shame honor for failing to charge anyone with JonBenét's murder two years after her death. Now three years have gone by, and there's still no one new under the umbrella of suspicion -- even though this year Hunter had an entire grand jury at his disposal.

On October 13, Hunter faced the worldwide media and made the following announcement: "I must report to you that I and my prosecution task force believe we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at the present time."

So ended the work of the grand jury, which had spent thirteen months listening to secret testimony, and so also essentially ended a 34-month-long investigation (regardless of flaccid claims from Hunter's office that prosecutors' work on the case would continue) that had cost the City of Boulder more than $2 million and the DA's office all of its credibility.

"You will not get away with what you've done," Hunter had told JonBenét's killer back in early 1997. But that is exactly what has happened. In the no-indictment postmortem interviews, Hunter would explain his rationale for making that comment -- rationale that would reveal his highly sophisticated crime-solving techniques -- by saying, "I thought I might smoke the killer out." But this year, despite Alex Hunter's best smoke-blowing, even Santa Bear couldn't bring JonBenét's killer to justice. As a desperate Internet plea for information revealed, the missing teddy most likely had more information than Alex Hunter.

US West
It's been a great year for executives at Colorado's monopoly telephone provider, US West. Santa left big presents in company honchos' stockings, particularly the silk one belonging to CEO Sol Trujillo, whose US West shares will be worth an estimated $97.5 million after the firm's $45.2 billion merger with Qwest Communications International is finalized next summer. The merry sounds emanating from US West's Tech Center headquarters these days aren't just the result of heavily spiked eggnog and drunken caroling: For a fortunate few, the new millennium holds the promise of endless days on golden beaches and well-manicured golf courses.

Unfortunately, Santa gave US West's customers big lumps of coal. Hundreds of Coloradans may still be waiting for their new telephone lines when Trujillo eventually takes early retirement. Documents released this fall as part of a consumer-fraud lawsuit against the company revealed that, through August of this year, US West had delayed 32,286 orders for new telephone service in Colorado by anywhere from one to sixty days. The company was also forced to acknowledge that it had lied to irate customers who'd called to find out why their phone lines hadn't been installed. This policy, which included creating fictitious installation dates, was known as "customer not educated."

Meanwhile, class consciousness at US West extended beyond corporate bonuses and became part of the company's service ethos. As he was grilled before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, a company exec admitted that US West had ranked every neighborhood in the state as either "gold, platinum, or bronze" based on income and told its employees to give priority to the wealthy areas. That way, US West executives who are about to unfurl their golden parachutes won't have to suffer the indignity of a dead line when they book a cruise ship headed for Aruba.

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