Dog Days

Feuds, forgery and the Zinna Factor in Jeffco.

Zinna learned of the documents late last year through his girlfriend at the time, Lori Stille, an employee at Washington Mutual Bank who'd processed other loans for Congrove; in fact, Congrove introduced the two to each other. One of the documents lists a "Michael Zinnia" as a tenant of a rental property owned by Congrove. The second is a $5,000 bill of sale for a 1988 Dodge truck that lists Zinna as the buyer; the seller is a longtime friend of Congrove's who was seeking to show assets for a loan to purchase a house from Congrove. Zinna has denied any knowledge of either transaction. He complained to the Arvada Police Department, which is now investigating the matter.

Congrove denies any wrongdoing. Although the rental agreement purportedly bears his signature as well, he suggests Zinna and Stille concocted the document. "This whole thing is a scam," he says. "I don't know what they did. I've never seen the document. Mike Zinna did talk to me about renting one of my apartments."

Zinna responds that he never talked to Congrove about renting from him and had nothing to gain by the forgery. "I wouldn't rent from him, because the places he owns are dumps," he says. "I wouldn't put my dog Fonzi in there."

Mike Zinna and his dog, Fonzi.
Anthony Camera
Mike Zinna and his dog, Fonzi.

Richard Lopez, who supposedly sold the truck to Zinna, has known Congrove for more than forty years, since Congrove mentored him in the Big Brothers program. He met Zinna during Congrove's campaign for county commissioner.

"I never sold my truck to Mike Zinna," Lopez says. "I purchased a house from Jim Congrove, and I signed a lot of paperwork. But I don't remember signing paperwork saying that I sold my truck. My truck is not worth $5,000. I don't know how this came about, but Jim Congrove and I did not do this."

Both Lopez and Congrove say that the idea of selling the truck was Stille's idea. "There's no victim here," Congrove insists.

Stille acknowledges that she did discuss a possible sale of Lopez's vehicles as a way for him to meet the loan requirements. She says she helped him fill out the VIN number but was unaware that Zinna was listed as the buyer until she saw the completed package of documents. She also denies any part in the forgery.

Last week, Stille's attorney notified the county commissioners of her intent to sue them for harassment. Stille claims Congrove repeatedly ordered her to "shred all of his bank records," made subtle threats, and accused her of "stealing" loan documents, going so far as to talk to county treasurer Mark Paschall about pulling the county's funds from the bank where she works. Stille also claims that Congrove showed up with Cinquanta at the restaurant where her sixteen-year-old daughter worked and "approached, confronted, and intimidated...and basically scared the hell out of her."

Paschall and Cinquanta didn't respond to requests for comment. Congrove says he "may have had conversations" with Paschall about changing banks, out of security concerns. As for Stille's other claims, "Everything in it is a lie, except for the spelling of my name. I might have said hello [to her daughter], but she didn't even wait on us. It's very sad that Lori is doing this."

Congrove says Zinna's accusations haven't interfered with the board's ability to wrestle with other business, including a major overhaul of the county's accounting system following several embarrassing disclosures about missing inventory, sloppy records and unsupervised purchases dating back to the previous board. But the personal attacks have made him think hard about the hazards of his job.

"This is what I get for running for office," he says. "He won't go away until we get some resolution through the courts. Why people give him an ounce of credibility -- I do not understand it."

Zinna says he's less interested in a settlement than in getting the truth out. "If I was in it for the money, I would have just kept my mouth shut," he says. "I'm in it for the justice."

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