Other businesses report receiving similar settlement offers from Horner: a couple hundred to settle a case, double that for his promise never to file another case. "I got La Rumba's settlement offer and told him (in so many words) to stick it," says Jerri Theil, who was on the receiving end of a Horner complaint for a ladies' night at that club. "By making the Division of Civil Rights handle case after frivolous case, he has taken an agency that was created to help truly oppressed people and turned it into a joke. This isn't oppression."

"It felt like blackmail," another club owner reports. And now the state is playing bagman.

Researching our appeal, we found an earlier charge Horner had filed with the Colorado Division of Civil Rights, this one against the Denver Newspaper Agency, citing a Denver Post ad for the Penthouse Club's "Amateur Centerfold Search," along with a drink promotion.

Horner made that charge under the state statute regarding "discrimination in places of public accommodation." Just as he later would in our case.

In its determination released on February 23, 2008, and signed by Steven Chavez, the division noted that "the respondent does not deny any of the facts as stated above, and claims that it is not a place of public accommodation." Just as Westword later would.

But there's one critical difference in these two otherwise identical cases: the conclusion. Because while the division found probable cause against Westword, it issued a "no probable cause determination" for the Denver Newspaper Agency.

As Chavez explained in that document: "For the Charging Party to establish a claim under this statute, the Respondent must be found to be a 'place of public accommodation.' It is notable that the Charging Party has previously filed a virtually identical case, which involved an identical advertisement, along with other advertisements, against Westword Publishing, with the City and County of Denver. The Charging Party failed on the merits of the case. Although Colorado case law does not speak directly to the topic, there are sufficient grounds to determine that the Respondent in this particular case is not a place of public accommodation. First, the nature of its business is not substantially similar to the categories of businesses listed in the defining statute. Second, the City and County of Denver, in the case cited above, and in an unreported and oral opinion, ruled on this issue and determined that the newspaper in that case was not a 'place of public accommodation.' In fact, the Charging Party, as plaintiff in that case, indicated during the trial that he did not consider a newspaper to be a place of public accommodation. Third, several other jurisdictions have determined that newspapers are not places of public accommodation. Thus, the Charging Party in the instant case fails on the inapplicability of the statute."

Here's the decision stripped of legalese: The Colorado Division of Civil Rights tossed Horner's complaint against the Denver Post because a newspaper, unlike a bar, is not a place of public accommodation, and cited Judge Campbell's ruling in the Horner/Westword case as precedent.

But last month, this same agency completely ignored its determination of the year before — as well as our own legal argument citing Campbell's decision — when it moved into Horner's corner and decided that "Westword is a place of public accommodation under the statute." Unlike the Denver Post.

Does the Colorado Division of Civil Rights have a double standard for double standards?

We'll find out: When confronted with this odd about-face, the division said it would reconsider our case.

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