As the independent news organization for all of Boulder County, BW has, at one time or another, uncovered corruption and scandal at nearly every level of government in every town in the county. In the case of this story, it was Nederland’s Board of Trustees that was in the Weekly’s crosshairs.
At stake were three vacancies on the seven-member board that governs this mountain town known not only for its skiing and natural beauty, but also for its drug deals, questionable political shenanigans and frozen dead guys. Three men wanted those seats, and one man, David Shortridge, was determined to stop them from getting them. The result was a battle that involved three trumped-up recall elections against Shortridge, himself a board member, multiple threats and at least one attempted bribe, not to mention a secret tape recording that finally brought down the whole scheme.
When Boulder Weekly first interviewed Shortridge, he was trying to shut down Nederland’s government by refusing to attend board meetings. His tactic was intended to prevent the necessary quorum that would allow John Lewis, a former drug dealer and drug smuggler; Scot Bruntjen, a Nederland business owner; and attorney David Clyne, a former Nederland town administrator who was at the time of the story director of operations and development for the gambling community of Central City, to be appointed.
Shortridge’s determination came from his belief that the three men were trying to put themselves in a position that would give them control over every aspect of Nederland’s government.
“Their agenda would be a detriment to the town, and I won’t allow it,” Shortridge told Boulder Weekly.
Shortridge told the Weekly’s Wayne Laugesen that the three men had been offering him the Nederland mayor’s position as well as financial considerations if he would attend the board meetings, get them appointed to the board and publicly apologize for the comments he had made while opposing them.
The accusations were serious and potentially criminal, and not the kind of thing that a newspaper can print without absolute proof. Shortridge asked BW if a tape recording of a meeting with the men in question making their illegal offers would be enough to write the story. Shortridge explained that because he was blind, he had a very sensitive and expensive tape recorder that he could use for such a cause (this was long before digital recorders made such quality commonplace).
The questions for the Weekly were myriad. If we agreed to use a tape that had not yet been made, were we breaking the law? Our media attorney assured us we were all right as long as the taping was suggested and done by someone else. The paper also would have to confirm the validity of the recording and that it had not been edited in any way. And, frankly, everyone in the newsroom was concerned that, considering the seriousness of the accusations, Shortridge was putting himself into harm’s way should the men discover that their illegal conversation was being recorded.
“I won’t say how we were able to satisfy all of our concerns about Shortridge’s safety and the credibility of the recording, but we were satisfied on both counts,” says Joel Dyer. “Wayne did a fantastic job on this story and it blew the lid off Nederland politics at the time. Obviously the plans of the three who wanted on the board were thwarted by the article. The attorney from Central City even lost his job. But most importantly, I think that this story was really the first to demonstrate to all of our readers in Boulder County that the Weekly was watching out for them no matter where in the county they lived.”