Phil Sullivan’s last stand
Those who feel Aspen’s rebellious character has all but evaporated didn’t sit through Tuesday’s trial pitting the Colorado Public Utilities Commission against Phil Sullivan.
Held in Pitkin County District Court, the bench trial crowned a 5-year stand-off between Sullivan and the PUC, which had accused the 75-year-old Woody Creek man of running an illegal taxi service in Aspen.
Sullivan, the PUC alleged, skirted state transportation rules by operating without a license and accepting fares in the form of under-the-table tips.
Over the years Sullivan turned his nose up at the PUC – flagrantly, in fact – ferrying passengers around in his KIA mini van with taxi lights on the roof, blowing off PUC penalties, court injunctions and nearly $13,000 in fines.
Sullivan didn’t have an attorney at Tuesday’s trial – it was just him against a slick-dressed duo of assistant attorney generals from Denver who played nicely in court but were, just by being there, playing hardball with Sullivan. Sullivan even admitted he refused to play by PUC rules, because he didn’t feel he was beholden to the regulatory agency.
But, as Judge Gail Nichols duly noted, the laws in place apply to all commercial carriers – even those in Aspen such as Sullivan. Nichols had no other choice but to side with the PUC.
Sullivan didn’t have to be so defiant. He could have played the game and paid his fees, but he didn’t. He took a stand – literally – for what he believed in, and he lost.
We still applaud Sullivan for taking this case as far as he did. We don’t agree with his position, but we admire someone who’s willing to fight what they feel is government intimidation – reputation and finances be damned.
Sullivan’s sentencing hearing is set for Tuesday in Pitkin County District Court. Judge Nichols has said he faces county jail time, the maximum stint being six months. Nichols is a reasonable judge and we trust she’ll make the right decision.
In the meantime, we applaud Sullivan for showing that yes, there still are some Aspenites who have some spunk and fight left, even if they’re from Woody Creek. We wish him well in his next pursuit.
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The Aspen Institute will for the first time in its history contribute to the affordable housing inventory by offering to buy housing credits for its new Herbert Bayer center.