Power plant whistleblower sues Colorado Springs, city officials for defamation

The Gazette (Colorado Springs): A Monument clean-air advocate filed suit for defamation Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver, alleging that Colorado Springs city officials and elected leaders subjected her to a smear campaign for exposing concerns about pollution from the city’s controversial coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant.

The move comes six months after Leslie Weise first lodged her allegations in a notice of claim.

Her complaint alleges a “nearly yearlong campaign” that “sought to discredit her and ruin her reputation in her community for exposing the fact that the Martin Drake Power Plant was spewing noxious pollution in violation of Environmental Protection Agency regulations in the backyard of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs residents.”

Twelve defendants are named, including the city of Colorado Springs.

Also being sued are council members Andres Pico, Bill Murray, Tom Strand, Jill Gaebler, Don Knight and Merv Bennett and former council members Helen Collins, Keith King and Larry Bagley. City Attorney Wynetta Massey and Colorado Springs Utilities spokeswoman Amy Trinidad also are named. The Gazette is seeking comment from the defendants and will update this story with responses it receives.

Allegations of character assassination grew out of an ongoing feud over Weise’s contention that Colorado Springs Utilities and city leaders withheld internal data showing harmful levels of sulfur dioxide emissions from the power plant in downtown Colorado Springs – a charge the city and its utility provider have denied. The 25-page complaint says that some of the defendants publicly called Weise a liar and suggested that she committed a crime by going public with her account of the contents of a CSU air-quality report that had been mistakenly released to her and other parties to the case by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

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