Leslie Weise: Winner of The Colorado Independent’s 2017 whistleblower award

The Colorado Independent: First Leslie Weise blew the whistle. And then she faced jail time.

It all started two years ago with what seemed like a simple question: Is Colorado Springs’ downtown power plant, which is fueled by coal, polluting the air her young son breathes?

That’s what Weise wanted to know. She lives in Monument and her 11-year-old son Jamie attends a school two and a half miles from the Martin Drake municipal power plant.

Weise knew the public utility had hired a firm in 2013 to measure sulfur dioxide emissions. So the clean air advocate, who has a law degree, filed a Colorado Open Records Act request, asking for the study from Colorado Springs Utilities, the public entity that runs the coal-fired power plant and whose board is the Colorado Springs City Council.

The utility denied her request, saying it could keep the report secret under attorney-client privilege because the utility conducted it in anticipation of a lawsuit from the Sierra Club. When denied a records request in Colorado, your only option is to go to court. So Weise sued the utility, asking a judge to make the air quality report public. A judge ruled against her. So she appealed.

Then came a strange twist.

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