The Home Front: Wage theft is on the rise in Eagle County where working families are ‘stiffed on pay’

“Megan McGee Bonta, of Catholic Charities in Eagle County, has numerous heart-wrenching tales of local working families stiffed on pay and forced into near insolvency by unscrupulous employers,” reports Vail Daily. “It’s called wage theft, and Bonta says that despite the booming local economy and record-low unemployment, it’s on the rise in 2018. The community integration services coordinator for Catholic Charities in Eagle County, Bonta says the number of individual cases of wage theft reported to her organization is up 66 percent so far in 2018 compared to all of 2017, and that the dollar amount reported is up 41 percent. Catholic Charities tries to help workers recover unpaid wages, either by directly contacting and negotiating with employers or helping workers file small-claims court actions or complaints with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.”

“Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell may continue jailing suspected undocumented immigrants if federal immigration authorities ask them to do so, a judge ruled Sunday in tossing out a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “The ruling by 4th Judicial District Judge Lin Billings-Vela frees the Sheriff’s Office to continue to comply with the requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pending the outcome of an ACLU lawsuit filed over the practice last month. “We won the right to continue to protect our citizens,” Mikesell said at a news conference in Woodland Park on Monday, adding that the decision lets his agency continue cooperating with ‘federal partners.’ The ACLU had petitioned for a preliminary injunction this month, asking that the jail be barred from holding inmates on ICE requests if they’re otherwise eligible for release.”

“Attorneys representing environmental groups argue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service neglected federal environmental regulations while evaluating the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge ahead of its planned opening next month, according to arguments filed late Friday with the U.S. District Court in Denver,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “‘We are seeking to have the Fish and Wildlife Service conduct environmental reviews that have not been conducted since 2004, despite new information that could impact the environment and safety of the refuge,’ Boulder attorney Randall Weiner said Monday. Since 2004 , planned trail routes have been amended and now cover “an area with greater levels of wind-blown plutonium dust and other dangerous chemicals,” plaintiffs argue. The refuge — a controversial parcel surrounding the former Cold War era Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility — spans more than 5,000 acres. A $7.7 billion cleanup effort wrapped in 2005, though the plant’s remaining plutonium reserves and the condition of the soil have been the subject of far-reaching criticism from environmentalists and surrounding neighbors in the years since. Friday’s filing came just days after U.S. District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer rejected a request for a preliminary injunction that would have barred the site’s planned Sept. 15 opening.”

“In the affidavit for his arrest, Christopher Watts claims he killed his pregnant wife after discovering she had strangled their two daughters,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “The affidavit, made public Monday following the filing of formal charges against the Frederick man and a news conference by the Weld District Attorney’s Office, states when Watts’ wife, Shanann, returned home early Aug. 13 from a business trip to Arizona, Watts had a conversation with her about wanting to initiate separation proceedings. During the investigation, evidence surfaced Watts was actively involved in an affair with a coworker, according to court records. After the two cried about it for a few minutes, Watts went downstairs. When he returned a short while later to continue talking, he saw on a baby monitor 4-year-old Bella sprawled out on her bed and blue, and Shanann actively strangling 3-year-old Celeste, according to court records.”

“The statewide group that wants Colorado voters to create a new way to redraw congressional and legislative district lines every 10 years kicked off its campaign in Grand Junction on Monday,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “The group, Fair Maps Colorado, says it’s time to create two new commissions — both made up of an even number of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters — to redraw those district lines after each U.S. Census.”

“Lafayette leaders are poised to approve an emergency six-month extension to the city’s drilling moratorium, delaying any potential extraction plans until after a statewide referendum on 2,500-foot oil and gas setbacks is decided,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “Officials sanctioned the current embargo last November at the height of fears that operators were training their eyes on Lafayette for large-scale energy development. The moratorium was first extended in May, when officials said they needed time to overhaul the city’s oil and gas codes.”

“Electric bikes are nothing new for Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare general manager Jake Ehrlick,” reports The Steamboat Pilot. “We have actually been doing e-bikes for 10 to 12 years, on and off,” Ehrlick said. “One year they would do well, and the next year they wouldn’t. It was really up and down, but I would say last year it really started taking off. This year, they are flying out the door.” Ehrlick said the popularity of e-bikes could be due to the constantly improving technology or because the bikes are proving to be a great way to get around town.”

“Poverty in Pueblo isn’t necessarily the cause of gangs and there is no direct correlation, but there is a relation because gangs do tend to be based in lower-income neighborhoods, according to a Pueblo Police Department detective,” reports The Pueblo Chieftain. ‘Most gang members typically don’t finish school and, even if they do finish school, they don’t actively go out to look for legitimate work,’ Detective Chad Jeffries said. ‘A street gangster’s life is to do crime. They do it to make money. Whether it be stealing stuff, selling drugs or trading stolen items, that’s their business. Is there a direct correlation to the poverty? I am not sure about that.'”

“The city of Loveland’s new Unified Development Code, an update two years in the making that aims to clarify processes and expand the city’s housing options and affordability, is nearing completion,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “The Planning Commission, five members of City Council and members of the Title 18 zoning commission met Monday night for a meeting to review the third draft of the new code, set to go before City Council on Oct. 2. Mayor Jacki Marsh was present, along with councilors Leah Johnson and Kathi Wright of Ward II, Don Overcash of Ward IV, and Jeremy Jersvig of Ward I. The new code seeks to give developers more leeway with the size and type of homes they build, and to make sure there are enough rules to keep things safe and meet community standards, said Special Projects Manager Greg George.”

“Plans for prescribed burns – intentionally set fires on the landscape aimed at reducing the risk of larger, more devastating wildfires – have been temporarily put on hold this fall as wildfires rage across the country,” reports The Cortez Journal. “Every year, the U.S. Forest Service’s three ranger districts across the San Juan National Forest in Southwest Colorado – Dolores, Columbine (Bayfield and Durango) and Pagosa Springs – put together a list of burns they would like to conduct. On average, these three districts ignite about six to 10 prescribed burns, said Richard Bustamante, San Juan National Forest fire manager. This fall, the Forest Service had planned to conduct prescribed burns on about 12,000 acres in the Saul’s Creek and Yellow Jacket area, east of Bayfield.”

“Jacob Durand said a silent prayer and made peace moments before his friend allegedly shot him in the face and left him for dead. Durand, 22, detailed the execution-style shooting that happened in the early morning hours of June 28, 2017, during the second day of testimony in the jury trial for Matthew Smith, 27, who is accused of the shooting,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “Durand said he met Smith, also known as “Mississippi” by family and friends, in jail about six months prior to the alleged incident. He said Smith told him and Jeremy Jackson, 27, a mutual friend, to leave their cell phones at home before driving to Rockvale together to pick up Smith’s girlfriend, Kandice Hamilton. Durand, who testified to having used heroin and methamphetamines earlier that day, said he complied with Smith’s order without question and left his cell phone behind. ‘He had a handgun and some guy just got smoked,’ Durand said.”

“The University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus on Tuesday announced a $120 million gift that school leaders say will help them recruit more physicians and scientists to the growing Aurora campus,” reports The Denver Post. “CU officials said the gift, which is the largest private commitment in the medical campus’s history, came from The Anschutz Foundation and its founder and chair, Philip Anschutz. With the pledge, the foundation has invested nearly $300 million in the medical campus since 2000, according to the university.”

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