Legal & Courts  May 7, 2024

Jensen appeals ruling that threw out his Centerra South complaint

LOVELAND — Despite the Loveland City Council majority’s decision not to pursue criminal or civil charges against four current and three former council members over alleged open-meetings violations, the issue lives on.

Loveland resident Bill Jensen has appealed a Larimer District Court judge’s decision to throw out a complaint he filed in December over their actions during the runup to the approval of the Centerra South urban-renewal area last April and May. That complaint alleged that the previous city council’s votes to approve the agreements with developer McWhinney Real Estate Services were invalid based on the alleged violations and improper notice.

District Court Judge C. Michelle Brinegar in March threw out Jensen’s complaint — but not based on its merits. She instead dismissed it based on laws that prohibit relitigation of claims that already had been decided. Jensen had filed a complaint in June echoing Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh’s contention that the council didn’t provide sufficient notice for the May 2, 2023, hearing and vote on Centerra South, and asked the court to determine whether Colorado’s urban-renewal laws had been violated. District Judge Laurie Dean dismissed that complaint last September but also not on its merits; she ruled Jensen filed it after a statutory deadline.

Jensen’s appeal, filed Friday in the Colorado Court of Appeals in Denver, alleges that Brinegar’s ruling was in error and that his complaint should be remanded back to the Eighth Judicial District Court in Larimer County.

Jensen’s Boulder-based attorney, Eric Maxfield, told BizWest that the district court has 60 days to certify the complaint to the appeals court, after which opening and response briefs will be filed.

“There has to be an argument about the open-meetings claim itself,” Maxfield said.

Jensen did not reply to BizWest’s requests for comment.

The allegations stem from letters council members Dana Foley, Patrick McFall, Steve Olson and Andrea Samson and former council members Richard Ball, John Fogle and Don Overcash signed on Loveland City Council letterhead and sent to Gov. Jared Polis and state lawmakers. The letter to Polis was sent April 19, 2023, and signed by all but Samson. All seven signed the letter to members of the General Assembly that was sent April 27, 2023.

The newly elected city council rescinded the agreements in November but reinstated them after McWhinney sued, alleging breach of contract.

The city council’s majority appointed attorney Christopher Gregory as special counsel to determine whether there was probable cause to seek criminal charges of violations of the Colorado Open Meetings Law as well as provisions of the Loveland city charter. Gregory’s report found that such probable cause existed, and the city named Boulder-based attorney Kathleen Haddock as a special prosecutor to file the charges if they were warranted.

Haddock determined that no such charges should be filed, but Gregory disputed her findings.

At the council’s meeting last week, members decided not to pursue either criminal or civil cases, but suggested that the city follow Haddock’s recommendation that an ethics review board be set up with rules that would keep such an occurrence from happening in the future.

The case is Bill Jensen v. Loveland City Council in the Colorado Court of Appeals. A case number has yet to be assigned.

Loveland resident Bill Jensen has appealed a Larimer District Court judge’s decision to throw out a complaint he filed in December related to the runup to the approval of the Centerra South urban-renewal area.

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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