McInnis draws heat in Colorado Springs for dodging water issues

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis has said he knows “a little something” about Colorado water issues, which is partly why he says he won a $150,000 fellowship from the Hasan Foundation to write “a series of in-depth articles” on Colorado water. McInnis’ campaign hasn’t commented on the articles or released them and McInnis has said precious little to reporters about his stand on vital water issues in Colorado.

Scott McInnis (facebook)

Barry Noreen, writing in the Colorado Springs Gazette Wednesday, dug into one local water fight and highlighted an apparent flip-flop by then-Congressman McInnis related to the so-called Southern Delivery System.

Some suspect McInnis’ decision on the SDS issue was influenced by his future employer, Hogan and Hartson, Noreen reports. A McInnis spokesman has denied the allegation but people are still angry about McInnis’s stand on the issue in Colorado Springs.

Noreen wrote that “life-long Republican” and former Colorado Springs Councilman Dave Sarton claims Congressman McInnis didn’t keep a promise to back federal funding for the Southern Delivery water project:

Sarton and others have suggested that … McInnis was on his way to a job as a lobbyist for Hogan and Hartson, a [firm] (see my blog) that had been hired by Pueblo Chieftain publisher Bob Rawlings to fight the water project. Viewed from that angle, it looks like McInnis was beginning to represent his future employer when he was still supposed to be representing the people who elected him.

“That is an unfair and untrue accusation,” said [McInnis Spokesman] Sean Duffy.

The McInnis campaign refused to comment for Noreen’s Gazette column today. But the heat won’t be turned down on this issue.

Sean Paige, a member of the Colorado Springs City Council and a former editorial page editor at the Colorado Springs Gazette, wrote a blog post today vividly detailing an earlier revealing McInnis response to questioning about the Southern Delivery System issue:

My interest in the matter stems partly from what happened back then, which still sticks in my craw, but in part from a more recent event. About 5 or 6 months ago I attended a small meeting — a briefing for McInnis on details of the Southern Delivery System — where Sarton confronted the candidate on the issue. I saw a side of McInnis (who I had heard was something of a hothead) that wasn’t flattering. Sarton raised the issue respectfully and tactfully, from my perspective. McInnis nearly exploded. I thought for a second he was going to get up off his chair and get in Sarton’s face (I was sitting between them). Red-faced and enraged, he yelled at Sarton, saying that he never wanted to hear anyone ever again say that Scott McInnis screwed Colorado Springs.

I have a bit of the Irish myself (though I prefer to think of it as “passion” or “intensity,” rather than a temper), and I’ve worked around some tightly-wound politicians in my day. But I’ve never seen anything quite like the “intensity” I saw in McInnis — in a situation that might easily have been defused with a little diplomacy or humor. I considered rising to Sarton’s defense as the tirade subsided, but I was sitting (as mentioned) within swinging distance of McInnis. A donnybrook would have put a damper on an otherwise informative meeting.

McInnis eventually screwed his head back on his shoulders but he still refused to take any real ownership of past actions. Instead of getting a coherent explanation, or an apology for a misjudgment that might be understandable if put in context, Sarton was effectively ordered to shut up, stuff it and never say anything bad about Scott McInnis again.

Colorado voters, including Republicans in Colorado Springs, want to know and have the right to know what McInnis wrote about water issues for the Hasan Foundation for $150,000.

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