Editors Note: This is an update to the January Front Porch article “Special District Dispute Nearly Derails Stapleton Bond Issue” (posted at FrontPorchStapleton.com).
On Jan. 26, members of the Westerly Creek Metro District (WCMD) requested that Park Creek Metro District authorize payment to their newly-engaged attorney. Park Creek took no action but requested a copy of the engagement letter with attorney Jennifer Tanaka. Park Creek Board Chair King Harris appointed board member John Moye to evaluate the letter. No timeline was established for making a decision about the request.
The two districts were created in 2000 to fund and construct infrastructure for the redevelopment of the abandoned Stapleton Airport. Westerly Creek is a resident-dominated board that imposes property taxes to generate revenue to pay for the infrastructure. Park Creek is solely responsible for the financing and construction of the infrastructure. Of its five board members, two are selected by the developer (Forest City) and three by the Stapleton Development Corporation (SDC), an arm of the city of Denver.
Westerly Creek asserts that being forced by Park Creek to hire Park Creek’s attorney (Paul Cockrel) is an inherent conflict of interest. Park Creek has maintained that Westerly Creek cannot hire its own attorney. Tanaka says a recent district court decision makes clear that prohibiting a board such as Westerly Creek from hiring independent counsel is against public policy. She says that principle applies regardless of the existing intergovernmental agreement that states WCMD will engage the same attorney who represents Park Creek.
The Westerly Creek budget contains $15,000 for legal services but Park Creek controls the expenditures out of the Westerly Creek budget. Westerly Creek has also put Park Creek on notice that it wants to revisit the IGA between the two districts to clarify its prerogatives.