However, Wetherald contends that Qwest overbilled Mile High for $1.8 million and owes the company $3 million in "quality of service credits" for "subpar" service.
Qwest insists there were no service-quality problems -- although its own recordkeeping has been in the news with a potential bankruptcy, restated financials and government investigations of its accounting practices. "We absolutely dispute the fact that we owe them any service-quality credits," says Qwest spokeswoman Rebecca Tennille.
To further complicate matters, Mile High filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection before Christmas, which Wetherald says he did so that the company would have a chance to reorganize and delay Qwest's request to disconnect them from its network. And On Systems Technology is suing Credle, Petersen and Premier Communications -- another upstart phone carrier that had agreed to absorb Mile High's operation -- claiming they've conspired to seize control of the business. They have countersued, alleging that Wetherald, Shiner and the other promoters conspired to defraud investors.
"The counterclaims against me are laughable and outright lies," Wetherald says. "When this gets in front of a judge, they'll have a lot of problems. As far as Credle, he may be an ignorant redneck who is totally pissed off about things he doesn't know about. Steve Petersen saw an opportunity to get his fingers in this. He has a motivation to do this that has nothing to do with benefiting the investors. They've destroyed a business that had 14,000 customers. These guys have created a lot of damage; they're spreading disinformation. Most of what they tell you is horse crap. Mile High is where it is because of their interference."
Shiner agrees, insisting that "they set out to destroy the joint-venture agreement. This is a case of simple greed. They wanted to steal our 30 percent interest. We were billing over half a million dollars a month. We had 14,600 customers in eleven months. That doesn't seem like a scam. Petersen and Credle were both in the office numerous times to see if we were for real. We had over 100 people working there. This was a very real business."
A very real business about to lose its customers back to Qwest. In December, the utilities commissioners delivered a blow to investors when they ruled that Mile High's customers should be reassigned to Qwest once the company shuts down. Credle and Petersen hoped the agency would assign them to Premier Communications, but the commissioners were skeptical that Premier would have the financial backing to operate a phone company for long.
All of this has created a legal tangle that leaves even lawyers scratching their heads. And that, Credle says, was exactly Shiner and Wetherald's strategy. He thinks they plan to drag out Mile High's demise as long as possible to continue pocketing the revenues from customers without paying Qwest.
After investors contacted the PUC, the agency began examining Mile High's dealings with it. In a report issued in October, the PUC staff charged Wetherald and others involved in operating Mile High with deceiving the agency into believing they had authority to sign documents on behalf of the Mile High partnership.
"This case presents a unique situation because of the potential that misrepresentations to and fraud upon the commission have been committed by an individual, under the watch of, and perhaps with the complicity of, a law firm and its attorneys," wrote the staff.
The report accuses Wetherald and his attorney, Michael Glaser, of intentionally misleading the PUC by submitting a letter on behalf of the Mile High Telecom partners signed by Leon Swichcow, one of the company's promoters. The letter stated that the partners had given Wetherald permission to enter into agreements with the PUC on their behalf, even though Petersen and Credle say that they never approved anything of the sort and that Swichcow misrepresented himself as a partner in Mile High Telecom.
"It now appears that Mr. Swichcow was not in a position to provide actual authority to Mr. Wetherald and that the Swichcow letter was a sham designed to mislead staff and the commission," reads the report, adding a recommendation that the commissioners reprimand Glaser and his firm, Lottner Rubin Fishman Brown & Saul.
But Glaser's attorney, Paul Cooper, says the PUC is targeting his client unfairly, since there was no way for Glaser to know that Swichcow didn't have signatory authority. "They're mad at the wrong people," Cooper says. "It's a kill-the-messenger kind of thing."
(Glaser no longer works for Lottner Rubin, and a spokesman for the firm says they have been advised not to discuss the matter publicly.)
But the commission saved most of its venom for Wetherald, with the report even suggesting that the Denver district attorney be asked to file criminal charges against him.