BEAVER CREEK - Dr. Malik Hasan believes Americans can solve any problem as long as they're educated about the issues, but he says he learned a valuable lesson when he commissioned a water study by a former congressman for $300,000.
Hasan, a Beaver Creek resident, says he was expecting Scott McInnis to work fulltime for two years writing and lecturing on solutions for Colorado's protracted drought, but McInnis only delivered a few speeches and submitted essays that had been plagiarized before bailing out after only a month's work to go to join a high-priced Denver law firm.
"I looked at the grant sheet and realized that no amount of time had been specified for him to be working. I thought it breached our understanding, but it was a legally binding document," Hasan said.
McInnis gave the foundation records that showed he gave a speech on Sept. 30, 2005, at the Colorado River Water Seminar in Grand Junction titled "Washington in the Rear View Mirror."
He also gave four other keynote addresses to the Delta Chamber of Commerce, the Davinci Institute in Denver, the Denver Rotary Club and the Colorado Mining Association, along with several television interviews.
For Hasan, it was a rare failure for a tough-as-nails negotiator who got rich from Qual-Med, a successful HMO in Pueblo which earned him millions of dollars when it went public in 1991.
Hasan, who emigrated to the United States from Pakistan in 1971 with only $32 in his pocket, spent millions of dollars to help set up The Hasan Family Foundation with his wife, Seeme, in 1993 to promote cultural understand and educate the public on major issues.
Hasan wasted no time gaining political influence. He and his wife donated $860,000 from 1990 to 2010 to politicians including President George Bush, and $7,000 to McInnis while he was still in Congress.
The foundation's original mission statement was limited to funding educational and health initiatives in Southern Colorado. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Hasan expanded the mission to include programs that bring a better understanding of the Muslim and South Asian cultures.
Hasan said he became concerned about Colorado's water problems while driving to monthly clinics for neurological patients on the Eastern Plains and added it to his agenda, even though it wasn't part of the original mission.
"It was turning into a dust bowl. People were selling their water rights, and the state needed a program to make everybody aware of the importance of water," Hasan said.
Seeme Hasan hired McInnis, whom she called "the most knowledgeable person in the state when it comes to federal and state laws regarding water and land issues."
Instead of solutions, the foundation says it got 59 pages of folksy "Musings on Water" interspersed with history and facts plagiarized from a 1984 essay written by state Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs, a nationally recognized water expert.
McInnis said he was unaware of the plagiarism, blaming a longtime friend and water official, Rolly Fischer, who was hired as a research assistant. McInnis said Fischer gave him copies of essays written by Hobbs without providing attribution. Fischer said McInnis is lying, and he refused to sign a letter accepting responsibility.
Hasan said his wife read the papers when McInnis turned them in and determined they were unpublishable, but Hasan said he was legally bound to pay McInnis because of the loose wording of the grant letter.
Hasan said other foundation fellowships have been successful, including one awarded to former Pakistani ambassador Akbar Ahmed to complete his book, "Journey into Islam."
Ahmed refused to say how much he was paid, but he said he was given a lot of freedom that allowed him to finish his book and tour the country, giving dozens of speeches, writing plays and publishing articles. He said the foundation was pleased with his work.
Hasan said he made a mistake leaving the specific method and manner of accomplishing the fellowship goals to McInnis.
Hasan rejected suggestions that the foundation tried to buy influence by paying McInnis $300,000 for turning in a sham report. Hasan said as former chairman of the House Resources subcommittee in Congress, McInnis had solutions to offer and he had visions of McInnis going to schools, Rotary Clubs and other public functions to spread the word "raising an alarm" about Colorado's water crisis.
Hasan said he already had friends in the White House and in Congress when he hired McInnis to write the essays and didn't need his help.
"I've never gone to Congress for anything. The government can't do anything for you, it can only get in the way," he said.
McInnis said he will fully repay the $300,000 he received for plagiarized essays, which he said should bring the issue to a close.
His primary opponent, Dan Maes, says don't count on it.
Political consultant Floyd Ciruli said the large sum of money the foundation paid for shoddy work raises serious questions that go beyond plagiarism. He said there were other people far more qualified to do the work who were passed over for the job.
"The bigger character issue here is that someone took $300,000 for doing something when he was not an expert. The fact that McInnis treated it haphazardly and unethically is unprofessional for an attorney," Ciruli said.