A Colorado polling and research company’s legal effort to force Sue Lowden to pay her 2010 U.S. Senate campaign debt is getting ugly.
Vitale & Associates filed a court petition last week asking a judge to hold Lowden’s campaign treasurer, Bob Beers, in contempt of court for missing an Oct. 16 meeting to turn over documents, resulting in cancellation of depositions that had been scheduled for Oct. 23-24.
Beers said he told the attorney he had a Las Vegas City Council meeting the morning of Oct. 16 and couldn’t make it. Beers also noted that the attorney representing Vitale, John F. Head, has been disciplined by the Colorado Supreme Court.
“It’s probably not a good idea to schedule me for 9 a.m. on a city council day,” Councilman Beers said Thursday in an interview. “I told him this stuff (documents) is ready. I thought he indicated he was going to pick it up another day.”
Lowden, who lost the GOP primary for Senate in 2010, is running for lieutenant governor in 2014. Critics have said she should settle her past debts before running for a new office. Lowden’s camp said it is trying to negotiate debt forgiveness or partial repayment.
Beers said the documents regarding more than $77,000 owed to Vitale, which provided polling services to Lowden’s Senate campaign, have been sent.
On Thursday Head said he hasn’t received the paperwork, and that Beers has repeatedly ignored emailed requests to set a date to deal with the matter.
“The guy wouldn’t respond,” Head said. “When I asked for documents, he stiff-armed me on all that stuff. City council doesn’t trump a federal subpoena.”
The nine-page court document requesting Beers be held in contempt was filed Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court in Nevada. It includes emails between Beers and Head trying to settle on dates to produce documents and for depositions of Beers and Lowden.
On Sept. 17, for example, after Beers didn’t respond to an earlier email, he finally answered an email from Head asking, “Would you please call me?”
“Yes,” Beers answered. “Tomorrow is a city council meeting so I am not able to communicate. I suspect it will end before 5 so I can call you in the afternoon.”
“But, he never called as promised,” the Dec. 12 court document says.
On Sept. 19, after Beers said he would be available for depositions on Oct. 24-25 except for in the morning, Head wrote back, seeking to set a time and day to turn over documents.
“I still want to talk to you about production of documents,” Head wrote. “If I don’t hear from you by the end of today, I will pick a date, time and place for production and issue a subpoena.”
“Document location is underway,” Beers responded, but he didn’t agree to any date.
As a result, Head set the Oct. 16 date without getting confirmation from Beers.
“At no time did Mr. Beers respond to the effect that he was unable to comply with the date and time selected for his document production,” Head told the court.
Head flew to Las Vegas from Denver on Oct. 16, but Beers was a no show for a 9 a.m. meeting.
At 9:21 a.m., Head sent an email to Beers, “Where are you?” but he got no reply. So Head returned to Denver. He finally heard from Beers in the afternoon.
“Hi John, ready to deliver but today I am required to attend a LV City Council meeting (I was elected to the body last year),” Beers wrote.
Head also asked the court to make Beers reimburse him for the trip to Las Vegas ($992.22) and for his time ($2,800 at a rate of $350 per hour) for that day.
Head said Vitale might be willing to negotiate a lower debt repayment with Lowden.
“We’re not going to take pennies on the dollar,” he said, adding, “never say never.”
“She claimed she was so rich that she paid her bills and not to worry about it,” Head said. “So we kept on working. When she lost she said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have any money.’”
Asked about the disciplinary matter against him, Head said it has nothing to do with the Lowden case.
“That’s no excuse for not responding to a subpoena,” he said.
Head was censured in 2010 for failing to put in writing a flat-fee agreement and for depositing his client’s advance fee into an operating account. He refunded the money eight months after his client’s request, according to the Colorado Supreme Court.
Head also collected money from clients to pay third-party vendors but “failed to timely remit those funds to the third-party vendor,” the high court said in an unrelated disciplinary case.
Lowden has settled less than half of more than $500,000 in remaining 2010 campaign debt, according to statements from Beers and filings with the Federal Election Commission. For some unknown reason, the Vitale debt isn’t listed in the FEC filings.
Beers said Lowden would like to settle all the debt, but it’s unclear if that’s possible. Previously, he said Lowden may end up walking away from the debt. He said there are new attorneys working with the FEC on the matter, as well.
“We’ve been trying to settle everything,” Beers said. “I know that’s when she would like to do. But I don’t know what the outcome will be.”
Contact reporter Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.