City Attorney Chris Melcher
David Neumann, who invented the scrubber technology that is being installed at the Martin Drake Power Plant downtown, is accusing City Attorney Chris Melcher of “extreme prejudice” toward his company and Colorado Springs Utilities.
In a strongly worded email sent Sunday night to Melcher and some City Council members, Neumann also says Melcher may be trying to stonewall an ethics complaint that Neumann filed against City Councilman Tim Leigh.
The Gazette received a copy of Neumann’s email late Sunday. About 9 p.m., the newspaper sent an email to Melcher seeking comment. Chief Communications Officer Cindy Aubrey was cc’d in the email.
This blog post will be updated as soon as Melcher responds.
A private meeting in Mayor Steve Bach’s office Friday apparently prompted Neumann’s email to Melcher.
But the meeting wasn’t about Neumann’s scrubbers.
The meeting was about the work of the Stormwater Task Force.
Jason Hann, a task force member who was not in the meeting but heard about what happened afterward from someone who was there, described the meeting like this:
“Melcher stated that NO regional cooperation would take place and if there were collaborative efforts for projects the City would be at the helm. Bach commanded that he knew there were several agendas at the table and that he was going to tell us what our agenda is. Bach stated there will be NO tax recommendation and that while his administration existed, CSU was going to be responsible for paying for stormwater. That CSU needed to “scrub” their budget again (despite the City not being able to execute a zero-based budget themselves). That the Neumann cleaner technology should be removed and that would provide millions right away and for years to come,” Hann said Sunday morning on Facebook.
Robin Roberts, who was in the room, corroborated Hann’s account.
“I was on this committee and in this meeting on Friday,” Roberts said on a Facebook thread. “The way Jason is reporting it is accurate, although I do remember that the suggestion of Utilities taking over the storm water function was just a suggestion, an option thrown out there.”
Roberts said she will never volunteer for the city.
“It will be a cold day in hell before I volunteer my time on a committee for this city again,” she said.
Here is the full text of the email that Neumann sent to Melcher:
You are being quoted by a number of sources as expressing extreme prejudice toward our company and CSU as part of a Storm Water meeting last Friday which was presided over by the Mayor and held in the Mayor’s office.
Additionally, we are in receipt of a letter from you to two council members which instead of providing them with legal guidance on how to determine conflict of interest you single out the employees of our company and employees of CSU as being the definition of a conflict of interest.
Further evidence of your extreme bias toward our company and CSU is shown in your negotiating a deal with the Sierra Club that involved damaging our company and a CSU project approved and budgeted for by the CSU Board. You attempted to cut a deal with a radical environmental group that could have resulted in a $400 million loss in ratepayer assets and a 30-50% increase in electric rates and may have prevented the Drake plant from receiving required emissions controls.
Additionally, we expect that any meeting discussing the merits of our contract or our company’s past, present or future relationship with CSU will be discussed openly with an opportunity for public comment. Furthermore, we demand that you release to the public the records of past private meetings dealing with our contract with CSU so that the public may determine whether your conduct is appropriate to your position.
Finally, based on information from two separate Council Members, your alignment with Councilmember Leigh has become clear and it appears that you are attempting to stonewall or deflect the Ethics investigation of Councilmember Leigh.
We can only wonder why you have not taken action directly against Councilmember Leigh when you have explicit examples of his providing false information to the public and the Board. It is obvious that you have examined our contract with CSU in detail. Therefore, when Councilmember Leigh says the contract title says it is for “Experimental” equipment you know that is false. When he says the CEO did not sign it you know that is false. When he says there are no specs, you know there are over ten pages of specifications. We are prepared to present over twenty separate counts of ethical and legal violations by Councilmember Leigh should we be given the chance.
Request that you explain to the public how your actions above and other related actions you have done as required by the Mayor are consistent with the appropriate conduct of the City Attorney. Perhaps you can also explain the responsibilities any lawyer has to avoid conflicts of interest. How is it possible for you to do the will of your boss the Mayor under threat of termination, while simultaneously representing the best interests of the City, the Council and Colorado Springs Utilities when their interests are in conflict?
David K. Neumann