Off Limits

Drips ahoy: The secretaries got hosed during a recent salary review at the Denver Water Board. But the lawyers got along swimmingly.

The controversy started when an in-house survey determined that secretaries, security guards, dispatchers and other "support" staff were making 1.9 percent more than local market rates. That same study concluded that while the support staff was rolling in dough, water-board lawyers were getting substantially less than their peers. Naturally, the lawyers needed a big raise.

Agency boss Chips Barry recommended that the board give the attorneys, whose average salary is $72,042, an 11.7 percent pay hike. Rather than advocate a pay cut for the little people, whose average salary is $32,968, he generously held out for a zero-percent raise instead.

Christmas, after all, is only three months away.
"We didn't want to give anybody a negative," says Barry, who admits to being "a little uneasy" about recommending a pay hike for lawyers while giving their secretaries nothing. "But I decided it was important to stick with the integrity of the process and say, 'The numbers are the numbers.'"

As it turned out, the water board voted to give the lawyers the full 11.7 percent but offered the support staff a 1 percent raise as a show of good faith--and, say several observers privately, from a sense of shame.

Barry says the new pay system, which lumps employees into seven professional "families," was in no way designed to funnel more money to lawyers. But department general counsel Patricia Wells is glad to see her staff get the bump. Under the old system, water-board barristers were earning from $400 to $1,000 less per week than their counterparts at the city attorney's office, she says, and she sees nothing wrong with lawyers getting their own special category under the new system (engineers and chemists, by contrast, were lumped together and got a 2.96 percent boost).

Wells presumably was being stiffed herself under the old system but says she isn't sure how much she'll benefit from the new scale. That's because she claims to have no idea what her annual salary is. It's at least $100,000, says Wells, "but I don't ever sit down and multiply it out."

Who says there's no justice in the world?

Guns 'n' roast beef: The painting up for auction was a peaceful portrait of two elk in a snowy wilderness. But the purpose of the auction was given away by the picture's stern title: "No Place to Hide." Where else would you see this grim clash of beauty and bloodshed but at the East Denver Friends of the NRA Banquet & Auction, held last week at the Eagles Lodge in Aurora?

A hundred red-blooded Americans gathered for the banquet, which featured a feast of wilted, brownish salad, baked potatoes, green beans and enough red-blooded meat to clog a thousand arteries. The main course, however, was the real killer: a collection of items to be auctioned and raffled off that included duck calls, an "NRA Hunting Club Bird House," a "Colonial Candle Lamp," an NRA bola tie and enough weapons to arm a battalion of middle-aged ofay gangstas. The only youthful presence at the banquet was a busty young woman named Cindy, who gave away door prizes of camouflage hats and subscriptions to Soldier of Fortune magazine. Even Cindy, however, took a back seat to the firearms, which were lovingly fondled by the dinner guests before the auction and drawings. The diners were there for one reason: to give copiously to the Friends of the NRA, a national group that exists primarily to extract donations from non-NRA members.

Westword didn't win either a door prize or one of the numerous shotguns and handguns offered. Too bad: The season on Colorado politicians doesn't end until early November.

Back-to-school special: Bill "Santa" McReynolds and his wife, Janet, went public this week with their demand that a special prosecutor take over the JonBenet Ramsey case. The couple had been "caught in the web of evil surrounding this case," they said in a letter to Boulder's Daily Camera. Not only had they been interrogated, but so had every member of their family. Among the couple's suspect connections: Bill's annual stint as Santa at the Ramsey's holiday party; Janet McReynolds's 1976 play, Hey Rube, about a girl found murdered in a basement. And then, of course, there was the truly suspicious connection: McReynolds is a former journalist, and from the way Boulder authorities treated the press in the early days of the investigation, you would have thought media types killed JonBenet.


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