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Zinna v. Congrove: It ain't over until it's over

Jim Congrove.

Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Congrove had such an eventful first term in office — a grand jury probe into his financial dealings, a Colorado Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the county's use of a private investigator who happens to be a bosom pal of Big Jim, a slew of lawsuits launched against him and the county by former supporter and perpetual county critic Mike Zinna — that he decided not to run for re-election this year. But with only a few weeks left in office, Congrove is far from free and clear of the legal morass that's enveloped county politics over the past four years.

The Denver Post has this report concerning the settlement of one lawsuit against Congrove and the board of commissioners on November 17, the day before it was headed to trial. Lori Stille, a former employee at Congrove's bank who claimed that Congrove and private eye Daril Cinquanta harassed her after she blew the whistle on some suspicious loan documents, abruptly dropped her suit. No money was paid out by the county, except to defend the case, so it's being hailed as a victory of sorts for Big Jim.

But waiting in the wings are two more civil suits that may put Jefferson County in the position of shelling out for Congrove's legal fees well after he's left public service.

As detailed in our June feature "The Lords of Payback," Zinna's legal blitz against the county commissioners has taken some bizarre turns. While a federal judge threw out his claims against the county for allegedly retaliating against him and violating his civil rights, his claims against Congrove as an individual continue. And since that story appeared, Zinna has managed to get Congrove, Cinquanta and former assistant county attorney Duncan Bradley all named as defendants in a second case, alleging that a rogue website engaged in wiretapping to publish defamatory stories about him. All three men have denied involvement in the website, but Zinna contends he has plenty of evidence to the contrary.

"My case is in full bloom," he says. "This is going to get really ugly."

Like it isn't already. Zinna points out that Jefferson County is paying for Congrove's legal representation in the wiretapping case, even though the county has never been a party in the suit. "I'm waiting for the county to say that wiretapping is within the scope of a commissioner's duties," he quips. -- Alan Prendergast

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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