Devil’s Thumb Ranch owners buy nearby B&B for staff lodging

As more mountain town homeowners turn to short-term renters to fill their residences, local employees are left with fewer and fewer affordable options.

Bob and Suzanne Fanch, owners of Devil’s Thumb Ranch outside of Winter Park, noticed the problem progressing over the last seven years — and especially since the pandemic began — so they decided to take matters into their own hands.

“Winter Park employees are making good money but they’re not making the kind of money that they can buy a house in this kind of market, and if you can’t find a rental, where do you live?” Bob Fanch said. “The answer is that employee housing has to be built at scale. There’s probably a 1,000-bed shortage right now.”

Last week, the couple purchased the real estate of Wild Horse Inn, a bed and breakfast about two miles from their 6,500-acre ranch and resort, for $2.7 million, Fanch said. They plan to turn the 2.5-acre property with three private cabins and a main lodge into housing for Devil’s Thumb employees.

The Wild Horse Inn opened at 1536 County Road-83 in Fraser 20 years ago, around the same time the Fanches purchased Devil’s Thumb. It has hosted weddings, corporate events and leisurely stays. The main lodge has seven bedrooms with private bathrooms, and the three cabins each have a king bed and a kitchenette.

Bob and Suzanne Fanch are the ...
BusinessDen file

Bob and Suzanne Fanch are the owners of the Devil’s Thumb Ranch outside of Winter Park.

Owners Christine French and John Cribari did not respond to a request for comment, but Fanch said the couple plans to continue their Wild Horse Catering business elsewhere. The inn will close at the end of September.

The Fanches plan to offer rooms within the inn for $600 a month to employees. They already have five buildings for employee housing with around 60 rooms, two on the ranch and three nearby.

“It’s still not enough,” Fanch said.

Prior to the pandemic, Devil’s Thumb Ranch had close to 400 employees, but because of staffing challenges, it’s now down to 250. That forced the resort to put a 70 percent cap on reservations. Fanch said he’s looking to hire 60 employees or more.

“We had a manager in one of our restaurants who was renting a house for $2,200 a month,” Fanch said. “When the fires happened last summer up in Grand Lake, they ate up a lot of inventory, and his landlord ending up raising the rent to $4,200 a month, and basically forced him out.”

In order to offset the growing short-term rental issue, the Winter Park City Council approved a program last week that would offer incentives to owners of short-term rentals or second homes to convert them to workforce housing. The council approved $325,000 for the program, which expires at the end of the year, to help house 40 employees.

Devil's Thumb Ranch has 6,500 acres, ...
Courtesy of Devil’s Thumb Ranch

Devil’s Thumb Ranch has 6,500 acres, including a resort and spa.

Owners of a studio or one-bedroom unit would receive $5,000 for a six-month lease or $10,000 for a year-long lease, and two or three-bedroom homes would receive $10,000 for six months and $20,000 for a year lease, according to local newspaper Sky-Hi News.

“But the real answer needs to be a massive undertaking of building employee and affordable housing up there and elsewhere,” Fanch said.

In a couple of years, the Fanches plan to build more employee housing elsewhere on the ranch and restore Wild Horse Inn as a bed and breakfast under a new name. The couple owns five acres in total on either side of the inn, so they would consider expanding the business’ footprint.

Other recent changes at Devil’s Thumb include the addition of 24 home lots ranging from 11 to 35 acres, which hit the market at the end of 2018. They start at $750,000 and reach $1.8 million. Bob said 12 have sold.

The Fanches also are working on a massive residential development in Winter Park known as Roam, slated to include more than 1,000 housing units and 70,000 square feet of commercial space on 170 acres between the ski area and the town along Highway 40. Phase one of the project began in 2019, and the overall build out is slated to take 20 years.

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Aurora reverses itself on pot hospitality measure when second vote comes up short

Aurora appeared to extinguish the idea this week of being the among the first cities in Colorado to allow people to light up a joint in smoking lounges, tasting rooms and rolling weed buses, with the City Council narrowly rejecting new pot hospitality rules it had embraced just three weeks earlier.

The measure went down Monday night on a 5-5 tie, which by city rules means an ordinance fails. Mayor Mike Coffman, who is only allowed to vote to create or break a tie, cast the tying vote.

Due to the tie, it must go before the council a third time — Sept. 27 — giving it one last opportunity to pass should any council member change their mind. Councilwoman Marsha Berzins was the flip vote on Monday, having initially supported the measure Aug. 23 when it passed 6-3.

Aurora’s new rules would have allowed the establishment of pot lounges, either in brick and mortar form or on wheels. Depending on the business, customers would have been able to purchase marijuana at the location or bring their own weed.

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FBI turned “blind eye” to reports of gymnasts’ abuse, Simone Biles says

WASHINGTON (AP) — Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles told Congress in forceful testimony Wednesday that federal law enforcement and gymnastics officials turned a “blind eye” to USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of her and hundreds of other women.

Biles told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “enough is enough” as she and three other U.S. gymnasts spoke in stark emotional terms about the lasting toll Nassar’s crimes have taken on their lives. In response, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was “deeply and profoundly sorry” for delays in Nassar’s prosecution and the pain it caused.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion — widely considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time — said that she “can imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here in front of you.” She declared herself a survivor of sexual abuse.

“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said through tears. In addition to failures of the FBI, she said USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee “knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.”

Biles said a message needs to be sent: “If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”

The hearing is part of a congressional effort to hold the FBI accountable after multiple missteps in investigating the case, including the delays that allowed the now-imprisoned Nassar to abuse other young gymnasts. At least 40 girls and women said they were molested after the FBI had been made aware of allegations against Nassar in 2015.

An internal investigation by the Justice Department released in July said that the FBI made fundamental errors in the probe and did not treat the case with the “utmost seriousness” after USA Gymnastics first reported the allegations to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis in 2015. The FBI has acknowledged its own conduct was inexcusable.

Wray blasted his own agents who failed to appropriately respond to the complaints and made a promise to the victims that he was committed to “make damn sure everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here” and that it never happens again.

A supervisory FBI agent who had failed to properly investigate the Nassar case, and later lied about it, has been fired by the agency, Wray said.

McKayla Maroney, a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic gymnastics team in 2012, recounted to senators a night when, at age 15, she found the doctor on top of her while she was naked — one of many times she was abused. She said she thought she was going to die that evening. But she said that when she recalled those memories in a call with FBI agents, crying, there was “dead silence.”

Maroney said the FBI “minimized and disregarded” her and the other gymnasts as they delayed the probe.

“I think for so long all of us questioned, just because someone else wasn’t fully validating us, that we doubted what happened to us,” Maroney said. “And I think that makes the healing process take longer.”

Biles and Maroney were joined by Aly Raisman, who won gold medals alongside them on the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams, and gymnast Maggie Nichols. Raisman told the senators that it “disgusts” her that they are still looking for answers six years after the original allegations against Nassar were reported.

Raisman noted the traumatic effect the abuse has had on all of them.

“Being here today is taking everything I have,” she said. “My main concern is I hope I have the energy to just walk out of here. I don’t think people realize how much it affects us.”

Biles acknowledged in January 2018 that she was among the hundreds of athletes who were abused by Nassar. She is the only one of the witnesses who competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — held this year after a one-year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic — where she removed herself from the team finals to focus on her mental health.

She returned to earn a bronze medal on beam but told the committee the lingering trauma from her abuse at the hands of Nassar played a factor in her decision to opt out of several competitions. At the hearing, she said she had wanted her presence in Tokyo “to help maintain a connection” between the failures of officials and the Olympic competition, but that “has proven to be an exceptionally difficult burden for me to carry.”

Democratic and Republican senators expressed disgust over the case and said they would continue to investigate. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said it was among the most compelling and heartbreaking testimony he had ever heard.

“We have a job to do and we know it,” Durbin said.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Congress must “demand real change, and real accountability, and we will not be satisfied by platitudes and vague promises about improved performance” from federal law enforcement. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, called Nassar a “monster” and wondered how many other abusers have escaped justice, considering that even world-class athletes were ignored in this case.

The internal probe by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who testified alongside Wray, was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar. USA Gymnastics had conducted its own internal investigation and the organization’s then-president, Stephen Penny, reported the allegations to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis. But it was months before the bureau opened a formal investigation.

The watchdog investigation found that when the FBI’s Indianapolis field office’s handling of the matter came under scrutiny, officials there did not take any responsibility for the missteps and gave incomplete and inaccurate information to internal FBI inquiries to make it look like they had been diligent in their investigation.

The report also detailed that while the FBI was investigating the Nassar allegations, the head of the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis, W. Jay Abbott, was talking to Penny about getting a job with the Olympic Committee. He applied for the job but didn’t get it and later retired from the FBI, the report said.

Nassar was ultimately charged in 2016 with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan. He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Litigation over the abuse may soon be coming to an end after USA Gymnastics and hundreds of Nassar’s victims filed a joint $425 million settlement proposal in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis last month.

Graves reported from Pittsburgh.

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Arvada pays $100,000 to settle police excessive force lawsuit

The city of Arvada in June agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a police excessive force lawsuit, records show.

The city cut a check to settle Travis Cook’s claim that an Arvada police officer beat him bloody in an unprovoked attack in 2018, according to a settlement agreement obtained by The Denver Post on Tuesday through a public records request.

The city took pains to keep secret the deal, which was first reported by the Arvada Press. As part of the settlement, Cook agreed not to talk about it to anyone aside from his family, attorneys and accountant, the settlement agreement shows. His attorney was also prohibited from speaking about the case, and agreed to say only “we have no comment” in response to any inquiries.

City spokesman Ben Irwin did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday. Arvada police Detective David Snelling said an attorney in the lawsuit had previously released confidential documents, which was part of the reason the city sought secrecy on the final settlement.

The deal also prohibited Cook or his attorneys from directing anyone to the settlement agreement, which as a public record is technically open to inspection — if anyone knows to ask to see it.

Cook filed the federal lawsuit in January 2020 after he said Arvada police Officer Brandon Valdez beat him during an arrest in February 2018. Police responded to a report that Cook was arguing with his girlfriend, and he was arrested for allegedly assaulting her. He was later acquitted at trial.

The lawsuit claimed that Valdez was “rude, hostile and extremely aggressive” before he began punching Cook. The officer claimed the use of force was necessary because Cook elbowed him in the face and was resisting arrest. The officers were not wearing body cameras during the incident.

The settlement is not an admission of liability on the city’s part. Valdez remains an officer with Arvada and he was cleared of wrongdoing through an internal affairs investigation, Snelling said, adding that the police department maintains the incident was handled appropriately.

“A settlement is not reflective of our officer’s performance,” he said.

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Kiszla: If Urban Meyer can’t stand heat in NFL, he should quit Jaguars and find new college coaching gig

I’m so old that I remember when it was possible to trust Urban Meyer wouldn’t duck and run at the first sign of trouble.

On a beautiful afternoon for football way back in the 1990s, Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick insisted at the end of practice that I meet a brilliant young assistant on his staff. This hot-shot position coach was 30 years old at the time. During our first chat, he looked sufficiently fit to play defensive back for the Rams, but seemed charismatic and smart enough to lead a team of his own.

This guy is destined to be a big star in the coaching profession, Lubick told me out of earshot from Meyer.

Well, Lubick got that prediction right.

Meyer won 187 games and three national championships as a college football coach before jumping to the NFL, signing early this year to coach the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Despite all his success, Meyer has developed a reputation as a tormented soul whose obsession with winning takes a harsh toll on his health.

Although he made Florida a powerhouse in the insanely competitive Southeastern Conference, more than 30 players were arrested during his six-year tenure with the Gators, and his departure from Gainesville left me wondering if Meyer was more concerned about his physical well-being or a damaged reputation.

Meyer loves winning more than his health. Not long after leaving the Gators, he was roaming the sideline for Ohio State.

In early 2019, Meyer retired from the stresses of coaching after leading the Buckeyes to a Rose Bowl during a season in which he was suspended three games for mishandling allegations of spousal abuse by one of his assistant coaches.

“I believe I will not coach again,” Meyer said at the time he decided to depart Columbus.

But money speaks louder than words. Meyer can’t quit football.

His short stint in Jacksonville has been no day at the beach. Meyer has turned the Jaguars into a clown circus.

The calliope music began when Tim Tebow was brought in to give the failed NFL quarterback a shot at playing tight end. The Jags were fined $200,000 and Meyer was docked $100,000 for violating the league’s no-contact rules during spring practice. Despite the presence of No. 1 draft pick Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville was routed by the Houston Texans in its season-opener.

This Jaguars team has issues. But Meyer won’t be talking about anything with Denver journalists this week, turning down a longstanding NFL tradition of taking part in a conference call with media members who cover the upcoming opponent.

“Rip me,” Jaguars veep of communications Amy Palcic explained in a tweet, explaining the decision to make Meyer unavailable was her call. “I understand we are living in a world where people have to be outraged about something.”

No outrage here. But laughter? You betchya.

There are topics I would like to chat with Meyer about:

Is former CU receiver Laviska Shenault the passing target Lawrence needs to thrive?

What on earth made Meyer think Steve Addazio might be a good fit as coach of the CSU Rams?

And has Meyer checked the skyrocketing prices of real estate in the greater Los Angeles area?

Maybe those are questions too tough for a 57-year-old man to answer.

What Meyer has discovered in Jacksonville is the same hard lesson Lou Holtz and Nick Saban learned before him. The job of coaching grown men in the NFL is not a dictatorship. It not only requires more tact than demanding hustle at practice, but also the realization that a successful coach at the pro level is there to serve the best interests of his players, not the the other way around.

After losing his debut as an NFL coach, Meyer told reporters who cover the Jaguars: “I’ve been warned for a long time that this is a marathon, not a sprint, so calm down and relax … not relax, but onward, soldier. Move on.”

Meyer is no dummy. In a dog-eat-dog profession, he looks out for No. 1.

While foolish pride might cause him to stubbornly believe he can conquer the NFL, it’s a college campus where Meyer belongs.

Onward, solder.

I hear my old friend Mike Bohn, now the athletic director at USC, has a job opening at a storied football program that has claimed 11 national championships and produced a half dozen Heisman Trophy winners, including Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson.

“I want to be exceptionally clear: Our university and its leadership are committed to winning national championships and restoring USC football to glory,” Bohn said after he fired Clay Helton when the Trojans were routed by Stanford. “This decision represents our next step toward that goal in what has been a thoughtful and strategic process to build a comprehensive football organization equivalent to the premier programs in the modern landscape. I accept the enormous responsibility I have to our current and former players and the entire Trojan Family to live up to our incredible heritage.”

Meyer is the man the USC job. USC is the job for Meyer.

I just hope Meyer grants an ink-stained wretch like me five minutes of his precious time when the CU Buffs travel for a game in Los Angeles against the Trojans in 2022.

Is that too much to ask?

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Aurora Police Department has pattern of racially biased policing and excessive force, state probe finds

Colorado’s attorney general will seek a legal agreement designed to correct practices at the Aurora Police Department after a year-long investigation found officers’ pattern of racially biased policing and use of excessive force routinely violated state and federal law.

The department’s officers treated Black people and other people of color differently than white people, including arresting and using force against them, according to the investigation released Wednesday. Officers also routinely used excessive force against people unnecessarily and failed to properly document information about people they stopped, the investigation found.

“We observed statistically significant racial disparities — especially with respect to Black individuals — in nearly every important type of police contact with the community, from interactions to arrests to uses of force,” the report states. “These disparities persisted across income, gender and geographic boundaries. Together with the other information we reviewed, we find that Aurora Police engages in racially biased policing, treating people of color (and Black people in particular) differently from their white counterparts.”

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser will seek to create a legally binding agreement, known as a consent decree, with the Aurora Police Department that will outline the steps his office believes necessary to fix the problems investigators discovered.

“If this effort is unsuccessful, we will seek a court-imposed order correcting these problems,” the report states.

The investigation is the first under a new law passed in the summer of 2020 as massive protests against police brutality and racism continued across Colorado following the murder of George Floyd. The bill, SB-217, gave Weiser’s office the authority to conduct such an investigation and, if agencies didn’t make the required changes, to force them to do so via civil litigation.

Weiser chose to investigate the Aurora Police Department following a series of high-profile allegations of police misconduct, including the death of Elijah McClain at the hands of Aurora police and paramedics in 2019.

“Elevating policing and building confidence in law enforcement is a critical priority for the Department of Law,” Weiser said in a news release. “Our authority to conduct pattern and practice investigations is an important tool for advancing this goal. In this case, our team conducted a thorough examination — with the aid of the full cooperation of the city of Aurora — and developed important findings on how Aurora can come into compliance with the law and elevate the effectiveness and trustworthiness of law enforcement.”

Investigators also found that Aurora Fire Rescue had a pattern and practice of illegally injecting people with ketamine. On multiple occasions, Aurora paramedics gave people doses of the sedative that were too large for their body weight and failed to properly monitor them after administering the drug. The department stopped using ketamine in September 2020 as multiple investigations into its use of the drug on McClain continued.

Investigators attributed the failings of the Aurora Police Department to “systemic and severe culture problems,” according to the report.

“Aurora does not create and oversee appropriate expectations for responsible behavior, which leads to the use of excessive force and the violation of the civil rights of its residents,” a news release from Wesier’s office states.

Over 14 months, investigators conducted data analysis, spent 220 hours on ride-alongs with Aurora police and firefighters, attended dozens of police meetings, and reviewed body camera footage. The investigators read more than 2,800 reports, spoke with Aurora residents and interviewed employees of the two agencies.

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Jaguars coach Urban Meyer says “no chance” he lands at USC

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer says “there’s no chance” he takes the open job at Southern California.

“I’m here and committed to try to build an organization,” Meyer added.

Meyer’s name was immediately linked to USC after the Trojans fired Clay Helton on Monday. Meyer has found success at every college stop, building winners at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State. He won two national championships with the Gators (2006, 2008) and another with the Buckeyes (2014).

He stepped down after the 2018 season and spent two years working as a college football analyst at Fox Sports. Jaguars owner Shad Khan convinced him to return to the sidelines in an effort to deliver a consistent contender in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars (0-1) lost their season opener 37-21 at Houston, a debacle of a debut that included 10 penalties, six dropped passes and three turnovers. Jacksonville essentially looked unprepared to play from the first snap.

Meyer expects a better performance Sunday against Denver (1-0).

“I was warned many, many, many, many times it’s a journey; it’s not a sprint,” he said. “We’re healthy, attitudes are good, we have good players and we’re building something.”

Meyer said earlier this month he didn’t miss recruiting and has said repeatedly how different college football is now compared to when he stepped down for health reasons, pointing to the ever-changing landscape and the addition of rules allowing players to earn money from their name, image and likeness.

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Colorado’s child abuse reporting laws should be strengthened, watchdog says in wake of Olivia Gant death

Colorado’s laws on the required reporting of suspected child abuse should be strengthened, the state’s child protection ombudsman said Wednesday in a new report that comes in the wake of 7-year-old Olivia Gant’s death by suspected medical abuse.

The state’s “outdated” and “poorly executed” mandated reporting laws should be changed to clarify the role employers play in the reporting process, to set a concrete timeline in which suspected abuse must be reported to the state and to require standardized training for all professionals who are legally obligated to report abuse, Child Protection Ombudsman Stephanie Villafuerte recommended in the 7-page brief.

“For Colorado’s laws to be effective, and for children to be protected, the law must be clear regarding who must make a report, so that valuable information does not fall through the cracks and people who fail to report suspected child abuse may be held accountable,” the report reads.

Olivia Gant’s 2017 death highlighted longstanding “fault lines” in the state’s child abuse reporting laws, Villafuerte said in an interview. Before she died, Olivia was a longtime patient at Children’s Hospital Colorado, where authorities believe the girl’s mother, Kelly Turner, faked Olivia’s illnesses and manipulated doctors and nurses into performing unnecessary medical procedures. Turner has been charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial.

A Denver Post investigation this spring found that some doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital Colorado raised concerns that Olivia was being medically abused by her mother, but the hospital did not report their suspicions to the state’s Department of Human Services until more than a year after Olivia died, despite the state’s mandated reporting law, which requires anyone who suspects abuse to “immediately” report to law enforcement or to the state.

The medical providers at Children’s did no such thing. Instead, the hospital investigated the concerns internally, and its internal child protection team decided there was no need to report the providers’ concerns to outside authorities, the Post found. That process appeared to follow a 2016 hospital policy, which instructed employees to report abuse concerns to the hospital’s internal review team, rather than directly to outside authorities.

That’s not an uncommon approach, Villafuerte said. Many institutions, like hospitals and schools, require employees to report abuse suspicions up an internal chain of command. That sort of “institutional reporting” can help facilities keep track of the reports, provide employees time and support to make reports while on the clock, and reduce duplicate reports. But it can also cause problems and delays, Villafuerte said, particularly if a supervisor stops or discourages employees from reporting abuse suspicions, or if the internal process is cumbersome or time-consuming.

“It’s unclear what an institution’s role is,” she said. “Are they a pass-through for information, or are they an arbiter of that information? And that’s why other states have created laws. To make it clear that if you do have (an internal) process, you must guard against persuasion.”

Colorado’s current mandated reporting law requires individuals in nearly 40 professions ranging from veterinarians to pastors to report suspected abuse to the state or law enforcement.

But the law is mum on institutional reporting, which has allowed various employers to come up with a hodgepodge of internal policies for employees who attempt to report abuse. Some employees come away with the impression that reporting their personal suspicions to a supervisor fulfills their legal duty to report abuse — but that’s not clear in the law.

Institutional reporting is happening, Villafuerte said, just without any guardrails in the law for how it should be handled.

“If you look at other state laws, which I’ve done, they are very clear that to the extent an employee must report to a supervisor or head administrator, the role of the facility at that point is to support the employee, not change their mind,” she said.

Thirty-two states have procedures for institutional reporting on the books, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In nine states, mandated reporters at institutions must first directly report suspicions to the state’s child protective services, then notify their employer of the report. In another nine states, mandated reporters at institutions start by notifying the head of their institution, and that person is then required to make the report to child protective services.

In 17 states, the laws specifically make clear that “regardless of any policies within the organization, the mandatory reporter is not relieved of his or her responsibility to report,” according to the publication.

Colorado’s mandated reporting law also falls short in two other ways, Villafuerte’s report found. The law doesn’t give a definite window of time in which mandated reporters must pass their suspicions on to authorities — it just says such reports must be made “immediately,” which is open to interpretation. Other states set 24-, 36- or 48-hour windows for reporting, the brief said.

There’s also nothing in Colorado’s law that requires mandated reporters be notified of their obligations or trained on how to recognize abuse, Villafuerte said. Requiring professionals to go through a standardized, statewide training would better equip them to fulfill their obligations, she said.

“The truth is, this is not intuitive, it isn’t obvious when abuse and neglect occur,” she said. The signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect, while they can be outwardly very external, many times they are not.”

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Denver officials expect 2022 financial footing to reach pre-pandemic levels

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, but Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s proposed budget for 2022 indicates optimism about how the city is recovering from the health and economic crisis.

Hancock and his staff projected Wednesday there will be $1.485 billion in the general fund revenue to tap into 2022. That’s 12% more than the $1.33 billion projected for this year due to the pandemic taking its toll on a municipal income that relies heavily on sales and use taxes.

If the projections hold for 2022, Denver will be on a similar footing to where it was at the outset of 2020, when the Hancock administration projected $1.486 billion in revenues. The city ultimately fell $211 million short, according to the finance department.

In his budget letter released Wednesday morning, Hancock laid the recovery largely at the feet of COVID-19 vaccines, noting more than 70% of eligible city residents have gotten the shots. He said that — and hundreds of million of federal COVID aid dollars — is allowing the city to focus on recovery.

“My 2022 budget is fiscally responsible, equitable, invests in our neighborhoods, bolsters our local businesses, and serves as a driving force for our recovery,” Hancock wrote.

The 800-page budget will be subject to City Council hearings and amendments before a vote is ultimately held later this fall.

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Sean Payton says some Saints offensive coaches COVID-19 positive

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday that a group of his offensive coaches, along with the team’s nutritionist and a player, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Payton didn’t identify by name any of those who had tested positive. But he later indicated that those missing from in-person preparations included an offensive line coach, a receivers coach, a running backs coach and two tight ends coaches. Payton said all are vaccinated.

Two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday that six offensive assistants had tested positive. That person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team and NFL at that point had not made a public statement about the matter.

Later Tuesday, Michael Thomas — who already was ineligible to play the first six games while on the club’s physically unable to perform list — was placed on New Orleans’ COVID-19 reserve list.

The names of most others who tested positive were not expected to be released in the short term because of federal medical privacy laws.

It is unclear how long those who tested positive will remain isolated from the team before they may return to the field or in-person meetings.

“Protocol obviously is enhanced with the team and the staff, and that’s part of it, and then those that have tested positive, like everyone else, test daily now,” Payton said. “They’re going to need two negative tests essentially before they can be back in the building and working. And so we don’t know the timing or the timeframe on that.”

The NFL’s enhanced mitigation protocols mean mandatory masking inside facilities, daily testing, no in-person meetings and grab-and-go meals.

The positive tests occurred after New Orleans’ 38-3 victory over Green Bay on Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida, where the game was moved from the Superdome following damage caused to southeast Louisiana by Hurricane Ida.

The Saints have spent the past two weeks practicing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and are scheduled to continue practicing at TCU this week before traveling to Carolina for their Week 2 game on Sunday. That game remains on track to go ahead as scheduled.

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