Land board lawsuit looms
The Eagle County School Board will consider hauling former Beaver Creek resident Robert Brotman back into court over a deal with a state agency to sell public land in Edwards.
School board president Barb Schierkolk said she would take the matter back to the board to see how the members feel about refiling a lawsuit that sought to stop the $3 million deal for 1,280 acres.
“This is a different board than the one that decided to take it to litigation the last time,” said Schierkolk. “They’ll need an update, but I will definitely be taking it back.”
Last year, the school board took up the cause to save two 640-acre Colorado State Land Board sections, one on each side of Interstate 70 in Edwards, and put them under conservation easements. The Colorado State Supreme Court ruled that neighboring landowner Dick Scudder could not sue because he’s not directly associated with public education.
Brotman, in turn, filed individual countersuits against all the members of the school board.
The state House of Representatives last Friday killed a bill that would have enabled Eagle County residents to buy conservation easements for the parcels. The bill, Senate Bill 104, died when Rep. Bill Webster, R-Weld County, saddled it with an amendment that contained part of the contract language between Brotman and the land board, even though two lower courts declared that contract was not valid.
The bill’s failure is being laid at the feet of one of the state’s most influential and skilled lobbyists, Frank DiFilippo, who Brotman hired to campaign against the bill. Brotman paid DiFilippo $275 an hour for his time and effort.
“The legislature let us down, but they let us down because of several highly paid and effective lobbyists,” said Eagle County commissioner Tom Stone. “We don’t have the ability to be down there five days a week. Mr. Brotman, being a wealthy out-of-towner, can do that.”
Stone said he was referring to documents filed with the Colorado Secretary of State in which Brotman lists his address as Bonita Springs, Fla. The phone and fax numbers he lists are for DiFilippo’s firm. According to Eagle County records, the only real estate he owns in the county is a parking space at Vail’s Golden Peak.
“I have been very disappointed in the lack of action and attention by the Attorney General Ken Salazar,” said Stone. “He suggested he would be involved, but was no help whatsoever in resolving this situation. It seemed he was more interested in getting his picture taken than actually getting anything done.
“I look forward to working with someone who can work on behalf of the people of Colorado and not just come up for photo opportunities with the local press,” Stone added.