‘Westword was accidentally included on all of the emails’

Five Points real estate has become a soap opera over the past year, no more so than the situation that forced the historic Welton Street Cafe to close last week. A real estate development company, the FlyFisher Group, has been the source of most of the controversy, and the fact that it is a Black-owned company that is behaving in a manner some Black businesses and advocates describe as predatory makes it an even more sensational story.

Conor McCormick-Cavanagh at Westword reported on the situation today, and his story included a phrase that is every PR person’s nightmare: “Westword was accidentally included on all of the emails.” From the article:

Westword reached out to both Burkett and his lawyer, Kim Ritter, for comment. Ritter forwarded that email to Burkett, who then forwarded the email to Sarah Cullen, a local public relations professional (at SideCar PR) who is serving as a spokesperson for Burkett, with this question: “Sarah any thoughts on this?”

Cullen’s response to Burkett and FlyFisher Group chief of staff Karina Tineo: “Happy to provide the ‘we don’t respond to active lawsuits’ comment like last time. Or we can let him know you’re traveling and ask for questions to see what he has and is focusing on.”

Westword was accidentally included on all of the emails. “First, [the FlyFisher Group] has not filed any lawsuits. Second, I am out of town and third we do not comment on ongoing litigation,” Burkett wrote in an email back to Cullen.

If You Can’t Beat Them … Orchestrate an Elaborate, Behind-the-Scenes Smear Campaign

I would describe it as unbelievable, but we’re talking about Facebook Meta, which makes it completely believable. From Taylor Lorenz and Drew Harwell at The Washington Post:

“Facebook parent company Meta is paying one of the biggest Republican consulting firms in the country to orchestrate a nationwide campaign seeking to turn the public against TikTok. The campaign includes placing op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets, promoting dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, and pushing to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping take down its biggest competitor.” …

“Employees with the firm, Targeted Victory, worked to undermine TikTok through a nationwide media and lobbying campaign portraying the fast-growing app, owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance, as a danger to American children and society, according to internal emails shared with The Washington Post. … Campaign operatives were also encouraged to use TikTok’s prominence as a way to deflect from Meta’s own privacy and antitrust concerns.”

Who Had the Worst Week?

  • Minutes after setting up at Denver’s Union Station for a report on escalating crime at the transit hub, CBS4 reporter Kelly Werthmann and an undisclosed photojournalist were accosted and the cameraman was assaulted. Construction company Kiewit became collateral damage in this story because the man who committed the assault – likely someone experiencing homelessness who was wearing donated clothing – had a jacket with a Kiewit logo on it.
  • The Central Park Recreational Center and “the Mayor of Pickleball” are locked in a dispute over permanent pickleball lines on multi-use courts. The latest twist involves the Denver Police Department and felony charges of vandalism totaling more than $10,000.
  • Despite threats from REI, Patagonia, North Face and others that they would boycott any Outdoor Retailer trade show in Utah, the show’s organizers announced that it will leave Denver after this year and relocate to Salt Lake City. Visit Denver officials estimate the economic impact of the trade show at $40-60 million annually.
  • Disney CEO Bob Chapek ‘s strategy of trying to stay out of politics has backfired spectacularly as a revolt led by employees against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation has put the company in the spotlight. Employees engaged in walkouts and March Madness announcers at ESPN (which is owned by Disney) started several games with two minutes of silence in protest. Chapek’s contract is up for renewal in a year, and how he handles this crisis may be what determines whether he stays at Disney.
  • Speaking of Disney, the theme park apologized for a performance by a Texas high school cheerleading squad that included “the team dancing and chanting ‘scalp ’em Indians, scalp ’em’ ‘ while performing moves that appear to appropriate Native American culture in a parade at Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park.” If only there had been some clue that the Port Neches-Grove High School Indianettes might perform something controversial.
  • NFL QB Deshaun Watson has pending civil lawsuits from 22 women alleging sexual abuse, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Cleveland Browns from signing him to a five-year, $230 million, fully guaranteed contract.
  • Kanye West may have five Grammy nominations this year, but Recording Academy executives are concerned enough about his increasingly erratic and abusive behavior that they won’t allow him to perform at the televised awards ceremony.

So, who won the week?

  • Denver media experienced a euphoric moment when two of its very favorite things intersected: a disaster and the Denver Broncos. Coverage of a relatively small fire at Empower Field received a surprisingly large amount of coverage.
  • Approximately $13.5 million of the $436 million philanthropist MacKenzie Scott is giving to Habitat for Humanity is designated for its Denver chapter. It is Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver’s largest single donation in its history. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains also received a record $20 million donation from Scott.
  • The Denver Nuggets extended head coach Michael Malone’s contract, giving him a chance to set the franchise’s all-time wins record. He currently is third (309 wins), behind Doug Moe (432 wins) and George Karl (423 wins).
  • Former soccer star David Beckham handed over control of his Instagram account that has more than 71 million followers to a doctor in Ukraine to highlight the conditions in the country and the “amazing work” medical teams are doing. Beckham is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Who Had the Worst Week?

  • “Denver police suffered a ‘total leadership failure’ amid the George Floyd protests in 2020, and chief Paul Pazen appeared ‘paralyzed’ about how to respond,” according to new documents obtained by Axios Denver.
  • Frank “The Strong Arm” Azar again finds himself in need of a talented lawyer. Months after suing his accountant, and then suing a second accountant he hired to fix his first accountant’s mess, Azar is suing an out-of-state lawyer whom he says is using Google ads to illegally poach clients.
  • College basketball fans in our state had a humbling week, going 0-3. The Colorado State men’s team’s March Madness experience lasted only two hours as the Rams were beaten by the University of Michigan Wolverines in the first game of the first round of that tournament. Meanwhile, the University of Colorado men’s team could only make the NIT tournament and then lost its first-round game to St. Bonaventure. And, finally, the University of Colorado women’s team lost its first-round game in the NCAA tournament today.
  • The Denver Broncos’ off-season moves have created a media frenzy, and The Denver Gazette got a little too caught up in it when it erroneously reported the Broncos had signed free agent linebacker Chandler Jones. He actually has signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.
  • Gig economy workers at Uber and Lyft say that high gas prices may be the breaking point for drivers who were already operating on razor-thin margins.
  • U.S. News & World Report ranked Columbia University as the second-best university in the country, but a professor in the school’s math department says its a fraud and that the university is gaming the system.
  • As it heads into this year’s tax season, the IRS is hiring 10,000 employees to help it get through 23 million returns it still hasn’t processed from last year.
  • CNN is an HR dumpster fire. Former anchor Chris Cuomo filed a $125 million lawsuit against the news network alleging that he was wrongfully terminated by Jeff Zucker, who has since resigned following the disclosure of his inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

So, who won the week?

  • Coors has restarted its brewery tours that famously come with free samples.
  • Denver Film’s Sie FilmCenter has re-opened and increased the programming available to movie fans.
  • ESPN is determined to make Monday Night Football the biggest game of the week, and it has lured announcers Troy Aikman and Joe Buck away from FOX to make it happen.

Columbia University Professor Challenges Own School’s USN&WR Ranking

Anemona Hartocollis at The New York Times: “Everyone knows that students buff their résumés when applying to college. But a math professor is accusing Columbia University of buffing its own résumé — or worse — to climb the all-important U.S. News & World Report rankings of best universities.”

“Michael Thaddeus, who specializes in algebraic geometry at Columbia, has challenged the university’s No. 2 ranking this year with a statistical analysis that found that key supporting data was ‘inaccurate, dubious or highly misleading.'”

“In a 21-page blistering critique on his website, Dr. Thaddeus is not only challenging the rating but redoubling the debate over whether college rankings — used by millions of prospective college students and their parents — are valuable or even accurate.”

Who Had the Worst Week?

  • The HOA for Green Valley Ranch has filed an astonishing 68 foreclosure notices for unpaid fines associated with basic covenant violations such as paint color, basketball hoops and trash cans left in the street. The foreclosure notices represent 57% of those filed in all of Denver over the past year. City officials are so concerned about the issue that they have scheduled a community meeting to offering resources to homeowners.
  • Two prosecutors in the Denver City Attorneys Office resigned and a third was suspended after emails and chat messages showed them “disparaging their bosses, boasting about how little they were working during their stay-at-home phase of the pandemic, confessing to misusing a criminal records database and reveling in causing a co-worker to suffer a ‘nervous breakdown.’”
  • Denver drivers spend an extra 41 hours in traffic annually due to congestion. The bright side? That’s a little more than half of what drivers in New York City and Los Angeles spend.
  • The Colorado Classic bike race has showcased Colorado to an international audience, but unless it finds a $3 million title sponsor it will have to shut down.
  • Speaking of bicycles, Denver’s oldest bike shop – Turin Bicyclesis closing after 51 years due to increased rents and continued disruptions to the global supply chain.
  • Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley has been suspended for the 2022 season after gambling on NFL games last season. The $1,500 in bets he placed will cost him $11.1 million in lost salary.
  • Ryan Coogler, the Hollywood director of movies such as “Black Panther,” “Creed” and “Fruitvale Station,” was handcuffed by police when employees at a Bank of America branch mistook his request to withdraw cash from his checking account as an attempted robbery.
  • Women’s basketball star Brittney Griner may be a political prisoner in Russia. She was arrested in Moscow on alleged drug violations and her fate is now dependent on a Russian justice system that is unlikely to do an American any favors.
  • Texas has successfully positioned itself as a business-friendly state, and companies such as Toyota, Oracle, Tesla and Apple have relocated or expanded their operations there in recent years. But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s move to classify care for trans teens as “child abuse” is getting push-back from businesses such as Johnson & Johnson, Macy’s, Apple, Meta, Google, Ikea and REI.

So, who won the week?

  • The Broncos traded for star QB Russell Wilson, and the winners of that trade are numerous. Broncos GM George Paton made a career-defining move and Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett now has a quarterback capable of competing in the division. Meanwhile, the Bowlen kids likely saw the value of the franchise increase in the months before its sale now that it has a true “franchise quarterback,” and Broncos fans can start dreaming of playoff wins rather than just hoping it finds its way to a 8-9 record.
  • 9News is one of the big winners from Denver DA Beth McCann’s decision to drop second-degree murder charges against security guard Matthew Dolloff. He was the unlicensed security guard working for the news station during the 2020 protests when he shot and killed a man who confronted and threatened a 9News reporter and then attacked Dolloff. A trial would have dragged 9News back into the story and created another wave of anti-media and anti-9News threats.

Great Moments in Social Media

When International Women’s Day rolls around, social media is flooded with posts from companies touting their commitment to women.

In the U.K., though, large companies are required to disclose their gender pay gaps using actual payroll data. So, of course, there is now the Gender Pay Gap Bot that shares that pay gap in response to any company that posts about their support for IWD (h/t to my colleague Kathleen Deal).

‘Brad is an Idiot’: Denver City Attorneys Mocked Bosses, Confessed To Loafing While Working From Home During Pandemic

Brian Maass at CBS4: “Three veteran prosecutors with Denver’s City Attorneys Office used an internal city email and messaging system to repeatedly disparage their bosses, boast about how little they were working during their stay-at-home phase of the pandemic, confessed to misusing a criminal records database and reveled in causing a co-worker to suffer a ‘nervous breakdown’ according to disciplinary documents obtained by CBS4. Two of the three lawyers resigned during a disciplinary investigation and the third was suspended but returned to her job.” …

“Attorneys Eric Reece and Kristina Bush resigned during the investigation into their conduct. Emily Reisdorph was suspended without pay for 15 days and has resumed working for the City Attorneys Office.  All three worked in the Prosecution and Code Enforcement Section of the office. Reece was a Senior Assistant City Attorney as was Reisdorph. Bush was an Assistant City Attorney.” …

“When a Black female attorney named Kimberly resigned from her job with the City Attorney’s Office, the group named their online chat group “Kimberly Killers” and reveled in the woman’s apparent ‘nervous breakdown.’ Learning of what happened, Bush wrote to the others, “That’s the best news I’ve heard since quarantine. I feel so satisfied by this. I’ve been humming all morning. She then sent a message with a gif patting herself on the back. Reisdorph responded, ‘You can’t take credit for that all on your own. We pushed her too far… we sent her into a nervous breakdown.’ Bush boasted, ‘Because really, this is our doing.’ Administrators in the City Attorneys Office termed the conversations ‘racially insensitive.'”

So what happened to attorneys Eric Reece and Kristina Bush following their resignations? Reece is now an associate attorney at the Denver law firm Sutton Booker, and Bush is an associate attorney at Robinson & Henry in Highlands Ranch.

In Memoriam

Randy Blauvelt, who held a number of senior communications positions in Denver with organizations such as Rocky Mountain PBS, the American Humane Association and First Nations Development Institute, has passed away. He was 67 years old.

Who Had the Worst Week?

  • Former Loveland police officer Austin Hopp faces up to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree assault during the arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia.
  • Two months after the devastating Marshall Fire, debris clean-up for Boulder County homeowners has not yet started due to a lawsuit over the selection of a controversial company.
  • Westword continues to publish mug shots of individuals arrested for – but not convicted of – crimes, despite widespread acknowledgement of the damage it can do to people’s lives and the disproportionate impact on people of color. Even worse, Westword is using the mugshots as clickbait on social media.
  • A disagreement over subpoena power between Denver Auditor Tim O’Brien and the Denver City Council has gone nuclear.
  • United Airlines must pay $2.3 million to two flight attendants whom the airline fired for watching an iPad during a break. The pair’s attorney successfully argued that United’s disciplinary system was nonsensical and applied inconsistently.
  • She may be the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, but Serena Williams is still fighting the same indignities that affect other people of color.
  • Major League Baseball cancelled the first two series of the season – or “MLB has canceled the Rockies first 5 losses of the season,” as CPR’s Vic Vela put it – when owners and players were unable to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
  • A JetBlue pilot was removed from the cockpit and registered 0.17% on a breathalyzer, more than four times the limit allowed by the FAA. I’m not sure what’s scarier – a drunk pilot or the fact that the FAA allows pilots fly when they register 0.04% on a breathalyzer.

So, who won the week?

PRWeek Releases 2022 Salary Survey

PRWeek released the results of its annual salary survey and the results show that it was a good year financially for the PR industry.

The median annual salary for public relations professionals increased from $100,000 to $110,000, a 10% increase that is the largest percentage increase since 2017:

Graphic: PRWeek

Agency public relations professionals saw salaries grow double digits on average regardless of title, with senior account executives seeing the largest percentage increase (25%):

Graphic: PRWeek