Denver Post's Ritter affair fishing expedition goes nowhere

Bill Ritter.

Ten days ago, in a report headlined "Ritter Aide's Victory Lap Cut Short," Denver Post staffer Karen Crummy included quotes aplenty from Greg Kolomitz, a former advisor to Colorado governor Bill Ritter. Kolomitz and Ritter had a major falling out a while back, with Ritter's camp alleging that Kolomitz had paid himself $80,000 from the gov's inaugural fund. Kolomitz, who learned just prior to the aforementioned article's publication that he wouldn't be charged with a crime over this matter, suggested to Crummy that Ritter turned against him following a 2006 conversation during which Kolomitz and partner Sheila MacDonald had talked to their boss about him getting "too cozy" with a female aide.

Gossip about extramarital affairs has become practically de rigueur when it comes to governors in these parts. Indeed, such whispers arose in relation to the last three men who held the office -- Roy Romer and Bill Owens being the other two. So I sat back and waited (and waited, and waited), anticipating a grapevine explosion in the wake of Crummy's piece. Instead, there's been little or nothing, even from the blogosphere. Why not?

One possible explanation is the source. Kolomitz is the very definition of the disgruntled former employee -- and MacDonald is no longer a Ritter insider, either. As a result, it's pretty astonishing that the Post would publish such a potentially incendiary passage based on their say-so alone. After all, Kolomitz says he has no knowledge of an inappropriate relationship between Ritter and the aide, a governor's office employee who denied any impropriety, and Crummy acknowledges in print that she was unable to independently confirm the 2006 chat ever took place.

Folks at Westword know a little something about how important it is to pin down the particulars when it comes to politicians and affairs. In 1990, the paper published "The Rumor About Romer," which argued that supposition about extramarital shenanigans between Romer and deputy chief of staff B.J. Thornberry had begun to impact the way the governor's office operated. Even though the feature focused on perception rather than an attempt to prove that Romer and Thornberry were personally involved, the governor denied any wrongdoing and publicly attacked Westword, whose reputation took a considerable blow at the time. Of course, eight years later, as detailed in this February 1998 column, Insight magazine published a piece complete with photographic evidence that Romer and Thornberry were more than platonic colleagues. But by then, the damage had been done.

Bill Owens benefited from the "Rumor About Romer" backlash after gossip began circulating about the reasons his marriage broke up. Major news organizations in the city steered as clear as they could of the buzz, which got so out of control that Westword published a list of the top-twenty rumors about Owens' romantic liasons -- a wacky roster that included pregnancies and love children along with possible paramours. To date, no credible proof has arisen in regard to any of these assertions.

If word of possible Ritter affairs had been circulating before Crummy's article, nothing reached my ears -- and the silence following the Post's offering is telling. Don't be surprised, though, if Ritter enemies belatedly try to get mileage out of Kolomitz's thesis. At this point, it's something of a Colorado tradition. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts