Most council hopefuls don’t have legal woes
Note: This is the second installment in a two-part series looking at the local court records of the candidates running for Aspen mayor and City Council. The first part ran in Tuesday’s edition.ASPEN Most of the candidates for Aspen City Council seats have steered clear of entanglements with the local courts system over the last decade or so.Three of the seven candidates – LJ Erspamer, Andrew Kole and Michael Wampler – have records in the Pitkin County Court systemErspamer was sued in small claims court in 1996 but the case was dismissed without a judgment, according to court records. Erspamer recalled that it resulted from a car accident involving one of his employees (he owned Colorado Riff Raft at the time) and a man named Thibeaux, whose car Erspamer’s company car hit.Thibeaux demanded $1,000 for the damages, Erspamer said, when Erspamer estimated the damage wasn’t worth half that. The two were headed to court when Thibeaux accepted Erspamer’s offer of $500 and the case was dismissed.Kole also has only one file on record at the courthouse, a speeding ticket for driving between 10 and 19 mph over the speed limit in 2001. That case also was dismissed. The actual file was not available for inspection, according to court personnel, and the location of the alleged infraction and the agency issuing the ticket were not immediately available.”I vaguely remember it,” Kole said this week. He recalled that he disputed the ticket, and maintained that he was speeding because of a defective speedometer in his car. He recalled taking the car in to a mechanic, who verified that the speedometer was faulty. Kole said the case was tossed out when he brought the mechanic’s report into court.Wampler, a bike shop owner, has been in court twice in the past, both times over business disputes. In 1990 he sued a former partner, Craig Peterson, over use of the term “Velo” as a business name. The two settled, Wampler got to use Velo in his business name, and the case was dismissed.In the other case, Wampler’s landlord, Cody Lane General Partnership, sued him in 1996 over rent due on a second shop Wampler had opened in Basalt with two partners, Steven and Patsy Psaledakis. The couple left suddenly, Wampler recalled, leaving him “holding the bag” for rent. That case, too, was settled and dismissed.The remaining three running for council seats – Michael O’Sullivan, Dwayne Romero and Steve Skadron – had no records under their names in the Pitkin County Courthouse records covering the last decade or so. A previous article covered the court records of a seventh candidate, Toni Kronberg.Romero said in a candidate profile in the Monday’s edition of The Aspen Times that he was once arrested for drunken driving, in 1998. He admitted a conviction of driving while ability impaired, and being sentenced to community service, which he called “a good lesson learned.” He said this week that the case was in Garfield County, and the Colorado State Patrol stopped him on Highway 82. The original charge was driving under the influence, which he bargained down to DWAI, and he completed community service as a general helper at Solar Energy International in Carbondale.O’Sullivan and Skadron both told The Aspen Times that they have never been arrested, and local court records, at least, bear that claim out. They also have never been sued or sued anyone else, according to the Pitkin County Court Clerk’s Office.Clean records in mayors raceMayoral candidates Tim Semrau, Mick Ireland, Bonnie Behrend and Torre have all stayed on the right side of the law in Pitkin County, according to records at the Aspen courthouse. A few tickets for hitchhiking and a ticket for driving uninsured are about as juicy as it gets. Semrau, Ireland and Torre have all been defendants in lawsuits during their time on City Council or as a county commissioner. “If you’re going to do serious environmental protection, you’ll risk lawsuits by people who think they have a right to do things harmful to the environment,” Ireland said. “My clients have been sued, but I can’t remember ever being sued for anything.”Ireland did say he has had three tickets for hitchhiking and a speeding ticket or two but, like the other candidates, no criminal charges. Behrend said she has not been convicted of a crime but that she has been sued. Her situation is a little more complicated because of a lawsuit she spearheaded against NBC. She said the judgments against her are related to that suit. “I have taken action, and I’m very proud of the action I have taken,” she said. “I look forward to getting those addressed. Since they are tied to the suit with NBC, I’ll probably just send them the bill.”A search for Behrend in local law-enforcement records turned up a single delinquent parking ticket and nothing else. Candidate Tim Semrau said he has been in a lawsuit as a plaintiff to get payment. Other than that, he said, the only time he has been in court is when he got sole custody of his children during a late-’80s divorce. Semrau said the city attorney dealt with lawsuits that named him a defendant as part of his duties as a city official. Pitkin County records turned up a single traffic ticket for Torre, for driving uninsured, but he paid the fine 23 days after the ticket. “I’ve never been sued; I’ve never been convicted of a crime,” Torre said. “I’m pretty squeaky clean.”Review of mayoral candidates by Joel Stonington.
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