Growth and development, newcomers and Mile High rent dominated much of the conversation in the city in 2015. But there were also lighter, funnier and just plain weirder stories, too. Here are some of our favorite strange but true events involving public servants. Find the rest of our Year in Review in print this week and on our blog.
A 28-year-old teacher in Thornton was fired in February after police arrested her and accused her of supplying booze and marijuana edibles to three students, all between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. The woman had worked at Pinnacle Charter High School.
Della Curry, a lunch lady at Dakota Valley Elementary School, created national headlines in July when she told news outlets that she’d been fired for giving away food to hungry students. Curry says that while what she did violated Cherry Creek Schools regulations, she just didn’t want to see any kids go hungry. The district disputed Curry’s claims, though, insinuating that the firing involved more than just free food giveaways.
In February, an eleven-year-old fifth-grader at a Jefferson County elementary school decided to bring some medical needles to school, which resulted, of course, in about twenty fifth-graders using them to poke themselves and each other. Although none of the students were injured, authorities worried that the needles could have been used or contaminated; they later determined that the needles were all new.
In March, a group of state lawmakers began wearing IUDs as jewelry. Well, not real ones. Rather, the earrings and lapel pins were colorful resin replicas of intrauterine birth-control devices. The reason for the bedazzlement: to support a bill that would have funded a program providing certain kinds of contraceptives to women for little or no cost. The measure failed.
“This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb, and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open.” These were the words of Colorado state representative Gordon Klingenschmitt, who tried to blame legalized abortion for a horrifying crime in March, when a woman attacked a pregnant woman in Longmont and cut her baby out of her womb.
“Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. Violence begets violence. So Planned Parenthood: YOU STOP THE VIOLENCE INSIDE YOUR WALLS.” Those were the actual words of Representative JoAnn Windholz of Adams County, who posted that sentiment in the wake of the November shooting in Colorado Springs that left three people dead and nine injured.
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As we wrote: “What happened to Durango Herald reporter Chase Olivarius-McAllister is both hilarious and appalling. Hilarious because several law enforcers make incredible asses out of themselves. Appalling because it’s indicative of the way too many men treat women in the media and the workforce in general.” In August, La Plata County Deputy Sergeant Zach Farnam had left a voice-mail message for reporter Olivarius-McAllister, but then continued to talk after he thought he’d hung up the phone. As a result, he was recorded saying some not-so-pleasant things, including comments about the reporter’s “giant boobs,” the correlation between fish-and-chips consumption (Olivarius-McAllister is British) and “huge boobs,” and the tendency of people from the U.K. to have bad teeth. The deputy later apologized. The reporter has since left the paper.
In July, police came to the home of Patricia Cameron, a Black Lives Matter activist who lives in Manitou Springs, during the middle of the night, arrested her and charged her with arson. The crime: She had organized a peaceful protest several weeks earlier at Soda Spring Park, during which a Confederate flag was burned on a grill. The protest was held as people across the country reacted to several race-based incidents, including the massacre of nine black parishioners in South Carolina, the political battle over the Confederate flag in that state, and various police-brutality cases. But police said grilling in the park isn’t allowed. Charges against Cameron were later dropped.
Colorado suffered through one of its worst environmental disasters in recent memory when the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally released millions of gallons of mining wastewater into the Animas River. Governor John Hickenlooper, hoping to show that things weren’t all that bad shortly after the spill, made a trip to southern Colorado, where he slugged down mouthfuls of the water. The videos are cringe-worthy, but it turns out that the governor had put a purification tablet into the swill before swallowing. Drinking stuff that causes most of us to recoil has become something of a go-to move for Hickenlooper; back in 2013, he drank fracking fluid in an attempt to demonstrate that it was safer than critics claimed.