By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Mike Zinna is feeling giddy. After years of battling Jefferson County officials, whom he’s accused of everything from financial malfeasance and moral bankruptcy to bad hairdos, he figures he finally has the bastards nailed. What he has are surveillance videotapes unmasking the people who’ve been sending him anonymous faxes from different commercial locations over a two-month period. The faxes are salacious, taunting and vindictive, full of nasty innuendo about half a dozen past and current county employees’ alleged sexual affairs, cronyism and misconduct. Their mysterious authors signed the screeds “Pinky T,” a pseudonym that’s explained at the end of the second fax:
P.S. I am wearing my pink leather thong...what are you wearing?
Grainy surveillance videos aren’t as conclusive as fingerprints, and the average political junkie would have had a hard time placing the faces behind Pinky T. But Zinna knows many of Jeffco’s top-ranking bureaucrats all too well; his muckraking, ax-grinding, eye-poking website, JeffcoExposed.com, specializes in blistering attacks on the county’s high and mighty. And he had no trouble recognizing the individuals caught on tape. The Pinky T faxers bear a striking resemblance to Jefferson County Commissioner Rick Sheehan; his wife, Sheri Sheehan, an elementary-school teacher; and Assistant County Attorney Cynthia Beyer-Ulrich. It’s them, Zinna insists -- or else three clones who look astonishingly like the originals.
“When I saw the tapes, I was stunned,” Zinna says. “I knew these people were arrogant, but I never believed they would get this sloppy. These people are actually on camera transmitting these faxes, in a conspiracy to destroy the lives and reputations of other people. And I caught them red-handed.”
Did he? Two sources who’ve worked closely with Commissioner Sheehan have identified him as the man in the white shirt sending a fax from an Arvada Albertson’s on May 18. In that fax, one high-ranking county employee is referred to as “Limp Dick,” while another is described as having been previously “fired from Jefferson County for sexual misconduct in the back of a county vehicle at Ken Caryl Ranch.”
But Sheehan says the figure on the tape isn’t him. He’s produced records indicating that he was in his office, meeting with another county official, at the date and time stamped on the fax.
“I have never faxed anything to Mr. Zinna, nor will I ever,” Sheehan says. “I was in a meeting at the time. There are witnesses, my calendar, and other records.”
Asked about his wife’s possible involvement in the faxes, Sheehan replied, “I don’t know why he’s bringing my family into this. I don’t know if this is all campaign shenanigans. He’s got a lawsuit pending here, and that’s about all I feel comfortable saying about the matter.”
Through her attorney, Cynthia Beyer-Ulrich also denied any involvement in the disparaging faxes. Beyer-Ulrich didn’t respond to requests for an interview about Zinna’s allegations, nor did her boss, county attorney William Tuthill. Sheri Sheehan couldn’t be reached for comment. County spokesman John Masson says his office isn’t commenting on the faxes or the videotapes, which he hasn’t seen yet. “We’re not responding to these allegations,” Masson says. “It’s a political issue, not a county issue.”
Zinna has vowed to take the videos to the television stations and pursue the matter in a civil action. As he sees it, the faxes are the most outrageous move yet in an ongoing campaign by county officials to discredit him, ruin him financially and knock out his website, which has been merciless in its pursuit of Sheehan, fellow commissioner Michelle Lawrence and various associates of theirs for alleged public and private misdeeds.
“Their motivation in doing this was multi-faceted,” he says. “Number one, they tried to set me up for a libel suit. They thought I would print anything anybody would send to me, which is not the case. And they were going to smear their political enemies at the same time.”
No matter how the fax fracas shakes out, it’s a powerful demonstration of how bruisingly effective Zinna has become in his one-man crusade -- some would say vendetta -- against the county’s most powerful elected officials. Since launching JeffcoExposed late last year, the 39-year-old developer has become a magnet for controversy and vilification. Like many politics-obsessed web avengers, he’s often vulgar, single-minded and downright personal in his attacks; unlike most of them, he’s also been reasonably competent in his quest for exposĂ©s -- working public records like a collection agent on commission and scooping the mainstream media with searing stories about questionable county financial transactions and fractious personnel issues.
He’s also attracted quite a following. Despite officials’ attempts to portray him as a marginal, self-serving crank, Zinna boasts that his website has become required (if clandestine) reading at Jeffco’s government headquarters in Golden, also known as the Taj Mahal; he claims that the site receives up to 25,000 hits a day. And the peculiar bent of the Pinky T faxes suggests that their authors are avid readers of JeffcoExposed, too, who hoped to get their anonymous attacks on Zinna’s site.