How to liven up a boring city council meeting? Get one of the councilmen to throw an elbow to the face of a medical marijuana patient who's just called him a son of a bitch.
That's apparently what happened at the Fountain City Council meeting last night in an altercation between councilman Harold Thompson and wannabe-MMJ-grower Al Lender. And as a bonus, the story also touches on cocaine, pepper spray and a pitchfork.
Lender is a medical marijuana patient who wanted to locate a grow facility on twelve acres of land that he says was previously zoned for agricultural use, although it's been redesignated LLR, for "large lot residential." But the council decided that such grows should be restricted to industrial areas, "and they specifically pulled out my LLR and said, 'You can't grow there,'" Lender says.
This decision upset Lender, and so when the council took a break, he approached at-large councilwoman Lois Landgraf, who he describes as "my representative -- she lives up the street from me. She's been against this through the whole process, and I walked up to her and said, 'Until the day you leave this community, I'm going to do whatever I can to trash your name,'" he recalls.
He was just as subtle when sharing his views with councilman Thompson, who hasn't responded to interview requests at this writing; when and if he does, this post will be updated. As Lender remembers it, "I said, 'You son of a bitch, you just took my property rights away.' And he came at me and struck me across the face with his forearm and elbow."
Plenty of local notables were nearby when the altercation took place: Lender says Fountain Mayor Jeri Howells was next to him, and Dan May, district attorney for the Fourth Judicial District, which includes the community, was also in the room -- although May's spokeswoman, Kathleen Walsh, says he didn't actually witness the incident. And while Fountain's council meetings are streamed or broadcast live, Lender notes that there are cameras aplenty in the room. In addition, the Fountain Police Department is reportedly interviewing witnesses and reviewing audio tape.
The incident is hardly the first of its kind to involve Lender, who is himself a former member of the Fountain city council. He was voted out in 2005 after it was revealed that he'd been imprisoned circa the '80s on cocaine charges. The Colorado Springs Gazette also asserted that Lender had been convicted of assault in relation to a 1997 dust-up with a relative, although he says "the family fight thing was dismissed."
And then there was Lender's face-off with Darrell Craighead, who spearheaded a recall effort aimed at Lender, and eventually took his seat on the council. (Craighead is no longer a member.) The story goes that Lender went after Craighead with a pitchfork, prompting Craighead to pepper-spray him. No one was convicted in the incident because, Lender says, "we kind of made up."
He doesn't seem ready to extend an olive branch to Thompson, with whom Lender once served on the council, too. Lender admits to bad blood between them: "He's a back-stabber," he maintains. And because of the alleged attack, "I want Harold charged with what he did to me."
A determination about that won't happen for a while. DA's office spokeswoman Walsh says, "The Fountain Police Department is still investigating the event. Once they finish their investigation, they'll turn over their findings to the district attorney's office. We'll review the findings to decide whether or not charges are warranted in the matter. But we can't discuss any of the timeline or evidence or events until that decision is made."
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In the meantime, Lender has contacted attorneys with an eye toward slapping Fountain with an injunction regarding the council's restriction of grow operations to industrial zones. Boulder County commissioners made a similar move yesterday.
"I want them to stop what they're doing against my property rights," Lender stresses. "And I'd like charges against the councilman for striking me. He's opened up the city to a liability claim, and he should resign and be thrown off the city council. That's not the way a city councilman should act."
He should know.