With renewed national attention focusing on government transparency and illegal political influence, Colorado finds itself at the center of an emerging scandal that runs from local government all the way to Washington, DC. Although Colorado Wild has been uncovering evidence of collusion between Wolf Creek developer Red McCombs and US Forest Service officials in DC, newly acquired documents show that the developer has also had extraordinary influence in Mineral County. A series of communications between the McCombs’ attorneys and Mineral County staff show extensive behind-the-scenes participation in the entire land use approval process before the county. Furthermore, these documents appear to have been both deliberately excluded from a September 24, 2004 Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request made by Colorado Wild, and withheld from the administrative record in Colorado Wild’s lawsuit against Mineral County.
The County’s failure to include these damaging documents as part of the record of Colorado Wild’s case challenging the lack of meaningful public participation in Mineral County’s approval of the Village at Wolf Creek is highly suspect. Further, these documents appear to have been concealed or withheld from Colorado Wild despite the fact that they were expressly requested under CORA in September of 2004. Mineral County has likely violated state law and their ethical responsibilities. While it is disturbing to see that the developer was essentially authoring the County’s policies, it is even more outrageous that Mineral County appears to have deliberately concealed this information from the public.
Meanwhile, the Forest Service is continuing to evade its responsibility to provide information to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), despite a January 17th Federal District Court ruling that ordered the agency to provide an index of communications between the developer and the Forest Service. As a result, Colorado Wild’s ongoing lawsuit against the Forest Service under FOIA remains unresolved, and we will likely be forced to again go back to Court.
With mounting evidence of collusion between the developer and government agencies emerging, the Federal government has become much more aggressive in attempting to conceal its actions from the public. Colorado Wild believes that the Village at Wolf Creek should not be allowed to move forward until a full investigation into improper political influence and government cover-up has been conducted. Fortunately, we are getting support on this matter from Colorado State Representative Mark Larson.
Larson believes evidence of undue influence and pressure being brought to bear by the developer on the U.S. Forest Service should mobilize Colorado’s Congressional delegation.“Based on what we’ve seen so far, a Congressional investigation is not only warranted, but needs to happen before the Forest Service issues its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Village at Wolf Creek.” said Larson. At the state level, an investigation by Colorado Attorney General’s Office is also now necessary. ”This has gone on long enough.” stated Larson. “We believe it’s time for the Colorado Attorney General’s office to take a hard look at the legal and ethical issues raised by the developer’s behind-closed-door actions and influence. This needs to happen before the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) issues any permit to the developer for access.”