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Stories of the year

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From poignant moments to political wrangling and crime and punishment, 2008 had it all

By AJ Vicens

Anyone living in South Jeffco knows how generous this community can be. And during 2008, a few more people and a bobcat found out.

Tessa Paprocki recently learned she has stage 4 breast cancer. Paprocki, 28, found out about her illness in October, days after giving birth to her son Landon. Her friends and family hosted a fund-raiser a few weeks later at an area bar, netting more than $23,000. On Dec. 19, her friends and family hosted another fund-raiser at Dakota Ridge High School.

Katie Green, a classmate of Paprocki who graduated with her in 1998 in Dakota Ridge's inaugural graduating class, helped organize a basketball game between Dakota Ridge and Chatfield High alumni. The event, which also featured silent auctions and concession sales to benefit Paprocki, pulled in more than $11,000.

Earlier in the year, another South Jeffco woman battling breast cancer, Trudy Wood, also found out she wasn't alone. For Wood, however, her benefactor was anonymous.

Wood, 49, and her mother, Trudy, were at a South Jeffco King Soopers to buy medication. Realizing they didn't have enough money, they bargained with the pharmacist to buy what they could, and the pharmacist told them to return a few minutes later. When they returned, the pharmacist told them that another woman in line overheard them bargaining and paid more than $200 for the full prescription.

And the animal kingdom also was among the beneficiaries of community spirit in 2008, when a bobcat hit by a vehicle on C-470 in September received treatment for free at Deer Creek Animal Hospital. The 6- to 8-month-old bobcat, which suffered two broken legs, was expected to recover after a stint of rehabilitation.

Politics captures headlines

There were clear political winners and losers in Jefferson County in 2008.

Winners included Ken-Caryl Ranch Metropolitan District, state Reps. Jim Kerr and Ken Summers, County Commissioner Kevin McCasky, new Commissioner Faye Griffin, District Attorney Scott Storey and Barack Obama. And a little thing called democracy did pretty well too, as county caucuses were packed and election turnout was prodigious.

The losers included Foothills Park & Recreation District, Jeffco Public Schools, Sue Windels, Jason Bane and John McCain.

In May, Ken-Caryl Ranch Metro District voters approved a 2.5-mill increase for capital improvements. But Foothills failed to convince its voters to approve a 3-mill increase in May, the second failed tax increase for Foothills in less than two years. Foothills' loss has led to $4.4 million in budget cuts in 2009, which means higher rental and use fees.

Republican Jim Kerr was re-elected to his third term to the state House from South Jeffco, defeating Democrat Tom Dittemore for the second time in a row.

Republican Ken Summers won a second term in the House, defeating Democrat Camille Ryckman.

Meanwhile, Republican Kevin McCasky won a second term as District 2 county commissioner. He narrowly defeated Lakewood Democrat Jason Bane, largely due to the fact that Scott Zulauf, a Green Party candidate, garnered nearly 20 percent of the vote. Jeffco Treasurer Faye Griffin, a Republican, defeated Arvada Democrat Sue Windels to replace District 1 Commissioner Jim Congrove.

Jeffco District Attorney Scott Storey edged Lakewood Democrat Vicky Peters for a second term in a race where Peters did virtually no campaigning.

Jeffco Public Schools failed to persuade voters to approve a mill increase and bond issue.

Participatory democracy won big in Jeffco in 2008. Record numbers turned out Feb. 5 for caucus night, with many event organizers of all political stripes saying they hadn't seen that many people at caucuses in years. A record 296,835 Jeffco voters cast ballots in the 2008 general election, a turnout of more than 98 percent of all active voters.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won Jeffco, a feat a Democrat hasn't accomplished since Lyndon Johnson did it in 1964. Obama ended up winning Colorado — only the third Democrat since 1948 to win the state — on his way to becoming the 44th president of the United States.

Crimes and punishment

Jeffco crimes made their fair share of headlines in 2008.

Mark Paschall, the county’s elected treasurer from January 2003 to December 2006, went through two trials in 2008.

Paschall was accused of soliciting a $9,000 kickback from one of his political appointees, allegedly offering Kathy Redmond an $18,000 post-tax bonus in the waning days of his term on the condition that she give him half. He was indicted on two felony charges: A jury acquitted him of attempted theft in February but deadlocked on at second charge. Another jury acquitted him on that charge in August.

Denver attorney David Lane defended Paschall, saying the whole thing was a set up by Jeffco Commissioner Jim Congrove. Lane said Congrove was angry because Paschall wouldn't discuss his testimony to a grand jury investigating Congrove in a case involving forged bank documents. Congrove steadfastly denied the claims.

The Jeffco school board was rocked when one of its members, Vince Chowdhury, pleaded guilty in July to third-degree assault. The plea came in the wake of a June incident in which Chowdhury allegedly choked and slapped his 16-year-old daughter after he thought she showed him disrespect.

Chowdhury eventually resigned Aug. 21, more than a month after his fellow board members formally asked him to.

Chowdhury was also in the midst of a Democratic primary in state House District 22 against Camille Ryckman, who won the contest by more than 2,300 votes. She lost to incumbent Republican Ken Summers in the general election.

One of the biggest South Jeffco crime stories of 2008 was that of Carrie Smith. Smith, 44, was accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from the South Jeffco Sports Association during her time as office manager between September 2005 and September 2007. She was confronted by the association's president in September 2007 and fired. The case was turned over to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

Smith paid the money back plus attorney fees in January 2008, and the association asked the sheriff's office to not prosecute Smith. Citing a lack of cooperation from association staffers, the sheriff's office dropped the case and reopened it twice, eventually turning it over to Jeffco DA Scott Storey.

Storey charged Smith with several counts of theft and forgery but offered her a plea deal in November. Smith pleaded guilty Nov. 7 to theft of more than $20,000, a class 4 Felony. She will be sentenced Jan. 8, facing a punishment of probation or as much as six years in prison.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.