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Anti-tax crusader sues Colorado Springs over perks for council members

Greg Campbell
Contributor

A former Colorado Springs politician is suing the city on topics ranging from perks for city council members to limits on water usage imposed by city utilities department.

Colorado Springs is apparently used to be sued by Republican Doug Bruce, a former El Paso County commissioner and former state representative.

“Mr. Bruce has filed many lawsuits over the years,” council member Jan Martin told the Colorado Springs Gazette, which reported that he’s filed 15 since 1999. “We prevail but spend an enormous amount of time dealing with them. It appears he has been saving up issues for the last few years and filed them all in this one lawsuit.”

According to the Gazette, those issues include allegations that city council perks like meals and snacks on days when they have meetings are benefits to which they’re not entitled; that city council members are wrongfully participating in the retirement plan for state employees; that the city attorney should not be able to hire outside legal help without the approval of council; and that sale tax collectors are wrongfully keeping a percentage of sales taxes, which he says is a revenue stream that should be approved by voters under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

He’s also suing over fees the utility department charges to turn on power and water — the Gazette reports that Bruce was charged $10,000 for a utility hook up that he called a “shake down” — and over summertime watering restrictions, saying that people should be free to use water they pay for any way they want, “even to waste it.”

Bruce is a lifelong and vocal conservative whose Taxpayer Bill of Rights — or TABOR — restricts the growth of state government and requires voter approval for new taxes. He’s so closely identified with the measure that voter-approved exemptions to TABOR’s restrictions are called “de-Brucing.”

But his opposition to taxes edged into criminal territory in 2011 when, after a trial in which he represented himself, he was convicted of tax evasion. He was sentenced to six months in prison, but was released after 104 days due to good behavior.

It was hardly the only time he stirred controversy. As a state representative in 2008, he was gaveled down when, during debate about immigration, he said Colorado doesn’t need “5,000 more illiterate peasants.”

And during the opening ceremony of that same legislative session, he kicked a news photographer who was taking his picture during the opening prayer, saying later that the photographer disrupted the proceedings.

City Council President Keith King told the Gazette that the council had reviewed each of Bruce’s complaints in the lawsuit and said he’s confident they’ve abided by the law.

“[Bruce] loves the court system and he loves to litigate,” he said. “He feels the council has not done its job. We are trying to do everything we can to be legitimate and respect the charter and the rules.”

Bruce, not surprisingly, disagrees.

“I’m trying to get a judge to inject a spine transplant into the nine City Council members to get them to do their job,” he told the paper.

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