City & Utility Attack Whistleblower
The City of Colorado Springs’ witch-hunt to punish a concerned citizen for speaking out about their air pollution crimes continues, despite pleas from community members for it to stop. Leslie is now facing revenge for just talking about air quality violations the Colorado Springs Utilities knew about, but deliberately chose to withhold from the public, and from the EPA during that federal agency’s formal review of that topic. The City’s spiteful anger could result in jail time, fines and sanctions for Leslie – while the government body actually at fault for lying and concealing important public health and safety information is able to walk away without any repercussions. This is NOT OK!
Here’s the story.
Leslie Weise, a single parent, whose 10 year old son Jamie attends school near the Martin Drake power plant, was concerned about the pollution from this very old coal-fired power plant located in the middle of downtown in the City of Colorado Springs. Leslie brought a legal challenge under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) to gain access to an air quality study that the Colorado Springs Utilities had requested from its professional services vendor, AECOM International. The study determined the sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels in air around the Drake Plant. Lawyers for Utilities had refused to give Leslie access to the study, citing it was attorney client privileged, despite acknowledging it contained technical, air quality modeling information.
Strangely, a Colorado Court mistakenly sent her the very study she was seeking on an electronic file. Following the Court’s instructions, Leslie returned the file to the Court, but did alert the media of the fact that her biggest fear was realized – that violations of federal air quality standards were identified in the study, and that this critical information was being withheld from the residents of the City of Colorado Springs who are exposed to the pollution.
Then the attack.
In an incredulous turn of events, neither the Court’s negligence nor the City of Colorado Springs’ malfeasance in keeping the damning air quality information from the public is under scrutiny. Yet Leslie is now facing punitive sanctions for merely talking about it - by those very two government entities responsible for the mess that they created! These sanctions could result in fines, restrictions on her professional license, and EVEN JAIL!
David vs. Goliath.
What makes all this even more outrageous is that the municipal ratepayer residents of Colorado Springs Utilities paid for the air quality study that is now being kept under lock and key by City lawyers. And, of course the residents also breathe the air that includes pollution emissions from the Drake Plant. Furthermore, the cost of the legal process to prosecute Leslie and determine the sanctions she could face are all bought with OUR TAX DOLLARS, leaving her on a severely unfair playing field to defend herself!
Brings the need for defense.
So, Leslie is forced to retain expert lawyers to defend her, but cannot afford this entire financial burden that has been thrust upon her – which could easily exceed $25,000 as the City of Colorado Springs, the municipal utility, and the City Council seem eager to drag this out in attempt to outspend and silence her. She has already attended a court hearing on January 6th because she was personally served at her home with a Contempt Citation requiring her under order of the Court to do so. Her next step is to engage in an extensive evidentiary process (including witness questioning, discovery and depositions) and then appear again for a hearing on February 13th. At that hearing, a panel of three senior judges will either decide in favor of Leslie or the City’s call for her punishment. If the City’s efforts to punish her are accepted by the judges, she will then need to appeal the decision against her to maintain her innocence, as well as to continue to pursue public release of the air quality records that have been denied to the public through continuation of the CORA appeal. While having to deal with all this, she must take time away from her work as an independent consultant and away from her son – making the burden even more difficult for her.
The community must be involved.
Your help is needed to ensure that she has resources to level that playing field, properly defend herself from this heinous attack by a local government, and make sure that the true culprits in the City government receive their proper punishment for acting in secrecy to hide information about unsafe air pollution in Colorado Springs.
A petition with over 1500 signatures, and letter of community support was sent on December 19, 2016 to the Mayor of Colorado Springs, and the Utilities Board of nine members who govern Colorado Springs Utilities. However, no action has been taken to stop this witch-hunt on a concerned mother whose crime was simply seeking the truth about dangerous air pollution and then discussing that truth with the public.
Please support Leslie.
If we all pitch in just a little, she will be properly armed to defend herself and continue her quest to make this important air pollution information available to the very people who paid for it and need it the most to ensure the quality of their health – THE RATE-PAYING CITIZENS OF COLORADO SPRINGS!
Alternatively, you may prefer to make a tax-deductible donation through the non-profit group that Leslie serves on the Board of Directors – 350 Colorado, which is active and vocal in their support for her efforts demanding transparency and clean, safe energy. Send a note through this site to receive details.
Thank you for supporting Leslie’s effort to require transparency by a local government that is trying to suppress pollution information from the public, and then passing the blame and punishment for their acts onto an individual concerned citizen.
As the late, great Ansel Adams said, “it is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” In Leslie’s case, the government has taken their gloves off and we must empower Leslie to fight back for truth and justice, and for a healthy environment.
Background on SO2 Pollution in Colorado Springs:
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a harmful pollutant that triggers asthma attacks and causes other respiratory illnesses and even premature death for vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. SO2 pollution is so harmful to people that it is tightly regulated by State and Federal regulatory agencies, including the US EPA. There are close to 400,000 people who live within a five-mile radius from the Martin Drake Coal Plant, including 120,000 children, and 42 schools that are impacted by Martin Drake’s pollution.
Media Articles (in reverse chronological order)
Petition (please add your name if you haven’t already)
Letter of Community Support
Press Releases by 350 Colorado
Letters to Editor
Excellent Guest Editorial by Gregory Olinyk
Let’s help Leslie stay strong in her defense against the City’s outrageous attacks on a mother and environmental activist who dared to speak up about the dirty secret this municipal government is hiding from the very people who are affected by, and who paid for the damning air quality study they refuse to release!
Please consider a donation to Leslie’s continuing defense expenses, so she can continue to have excellent legal counsel to help her put an end to this government overreach, and move on with her life! Please spread the word. Thank you so much!
Thanks for your support everybody!