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Mike, you go

Like a number of locals, I have a somewhat limited awareness of the details and current status of the very complicated and legally detailed lawsuit, regarding Question 3D, on the November, 2001 ballot, brought by Mr. Cacioppo against the Eagle County School District.

Never would I admit to any substantial understanding of the TABOR Amendment. All that I know, I have learned from the newspapers. In spite of the available information, or maybe because of the available information, including the pertinent article in the April 15 Vail Daily, I am a little puzzled. Please offer some answers, in plain English, for me, to the following questions:

1. In an April 11, 2001, Speakout! article, Mr. Cacioppo writes, “we need your monetary support to sustain our litigation with the school system that is refundable if we prevail.” If some sort of defense fund, or in this case, plaintiff fund, has been established by Speakout! and/or Mr. Cacioppo, would it be required to be identified as such, and an accounting made available to the donators? Would such a fund’s records, if considered to be a non-profit entity, need to be made available to the general public?

2. If Mr. Cacioppo decides to appeal Judge Hart’s decision, and after the appeal process, which according to Mr. Cacioppo, “I did not expect to win until the case went on appeal, which could take another couple of years,” Mr. Cacioppo should happen to win, what would that mean? Would the district have to start over with a new request of the voters for a “teacher tax?” Would Mr. Cacioppo be reimbursed for his costs? Would he be entitled to damages over and above his costs? Has Mr. Cacioppo sought damages from the start of this lawsuit? If so, how much? And if so, why haven’t we been made aware of such potential damages?

3. In at least three different articles in Speakout! – on August 30, 2002, September 6, 2002, and April 4, 2003 – and in the April 15, 2003, article in the Vail Daily, Mr. Cacioppo identifies his “teacher tax” lawsuit against the Eagle County School District as a “suit alleging violation of the state Constitution …” “lawsuit filed to enforce the state Constitution …”, and “it is alleged that the November 2001 ballot question violated the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) Constitutional amendment …” and, “this ruling, if I allow it to stand without appeal, would render the 1992 TABOR Constitutional Amendment meaningless.”

Mr. Cacioppo also states in a Nov. 1, 2002, article in Speakout! that “last winter, the school district’s administrative office participated with the distribution of boycott materials against Speakout! for daring to attempt to defend the state Constitution and overturn the allegedly illegal cost of living election …”

However, in at least three of those articles, two in Speakout!, Nov. 1, 2002, and April 4, 2003, and in the April 15 article in the Vail Daily, Mr. Cacioppo points out that he is willing to settle this lawsuit: “School board refuses to discuss settlement directly with publisher”; “This writer has always been willing to settle the dispute to allow for the tax increase. However the district has refused to do so…”; and “I still offer the district the ability to resolve this by a fair settlement that defends the state Constitution.”

What puzzles me is, how can Mr. Cacioppo make a settlement with the district and walk away from all he believes in? This question is based on his own words. “This ruling, if I allow it to stand without appeal, would render the 1992 TABOR Constitutional Amendment meaningless.”

What kind of settlement is Mr. Cacioppo looking for? Would such a settlement, perhaps, be monetary in value? Who would receive the settlement? Mr. Cacioppo? Would this settlement then allow the district to go ahead and pay the teachers the increase approved by the passing of Question 3D, without proving the legality of the ballot question? Would the state Constitution no longer be violated by such cost of living payments if Mr. Cacioppo receives a settlement from the district, and drops his case?

Does Mr. Cacioppo solely have the power and the authority to determine if such a violation no longer exists, if the amount of the money settlement is agreeable to him? Again, his own words: “This writer has always been willing to settle the

dispute to allow for the tax increase…”, and “I still offer the district the ability to resolve this by a fair settlement that defends the state Constitution”, seem to point to such an arrangement.

4. If the school district should decide to settle with Mr. Cacioppo, would the plaintiff fund contributors he has been seeking share in that settlement, over and above the promised refund of their contributions, if they should “prevail”?

5. If Mr. Cacioppo should accept a settlement from the district, would such a settlement be made part of the public record that Mr. Cacioppo so dearly defends?

6. Just one more question. I may be wrong, but it seems some numbers don’t add up, so please clarify the following matter. The Vail Daily, April 15, 2003, article states, “Under Hart’s ruling, Cacioppo is on the hook for court costs and attorney’s fees, which Hart’s ruling estimated at $10,000.” This sounds like a lot of money. However, on two occasions, in Speakout!, once way back on August 30, 2002, Mr. Cacioppo refers to the district’s legal costs for this lawsuit: “District has spent $17,170.18 defending this writer’s suit alleging violation of state Constitution …”; and more recently, in an April 4, 2003, article, he states the district has spent “to the tune of approximately $92,000 taxpayer dollars defending the action.” Which number is correct, and who is on the “hook” for it?

I, for one, applaud Mr. Cacioppo for his diligence to date. I encourage him not to buckle under to the pressure of big government, and not to accept a settlement at this time, no matter the amount those dastardly connivers at the Eagle County School District may offer him for his silence.

He should continue to be the watchdog of government for us miserable members of the ill-informed public and persevere through the appeals process, no matter the cost. Few people, today, pursue a goal on principle alone. Mr. Cacioppo is a bright shining light in the dour “money is everything” world we live in.

Unfortunately, as he so stated in the April 4, 2003, edition of Speakout!, the economy has been bad, and I have indeed felt the pinch. So, I won’t be able to donate to his plaintiff fund. But you go, Michael.

Joe Peplinski

Give him the bill

After seeing all the news on TV and then reading this morning article “Climber’s Grit Grips World” in your paper regarding the “heroic” adventures of Aron Ralston, I have to comment.

This man is dangerous and so is the approach of this paper glamorizing this individual. It sets a bad example for every outdoors person everywhere. He broke so many of the basic rules, like never go alone, leave a plan with a friend of where you are going and when you will be back. Let someone know if you change your plan. Carry a rescue beacon or transponder. What kind of example is this to others?

Now 13 park rangers had to go get his arm and make two attempts to do it, let alone the initial rescue costs. Think of the cost of the chopper. How about doing an article on what this really cost us taxpayers and what the basic safety rules of climbing-backcountry hiking, etc., are. I hope this putz gets socked with the bill.

I’m sorry for his trauma, but he brought it upon himself and now it appears us taxpayers are once again paying the bill for stupidity of an individual, while he will make a fortune off of his story. Budgets are tight and I am sure the park rangers have better things to do than clean up after his insanity.

Is this not the same guy that got caught in an avalanche recently and had to be rescued then?

In my mind this guy is just one step ahead of a Darwin Award.

Keith Powers

Eagle


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