August 2010

Closing Arguments

Max Potter's article ("Power Broken," June) is flawed in many ways. He notes that I declined an interview, and this is true. But he neglects to mention that I offered, on four separate occasions, to respond to questions in writing and was denied the opportunity to offer my perspective. By the time he contacted me, very near to deadline, I suspect his story was already written.

His reporting lacked what I understand to be the bare minimum in journalistic ethics, like presenting both sides of the story in an objective and balanced manner. Many of the statements made out to be facts are simply untrue. Potter spoke to not one person who might provide an alternate view of events. As for his sources, Mr. Gleason was on the mark when he said, "they were motivated by some kind of vendetta."

In addition, the article is rife with racial overtones that are as offensive as they are false. Further, to imply that I underwent a surgery as intensive as a gastric bypass for cosmetic purposes is simply ignorant. My weight had caused a number of potentially life-threatening conditions that merited immediate attention.

It's not surprising that Potter would author what is little more than a smear campaign. It is not the first time he has written articles like this one. The "profile" of John Temple, chronicling the last days of the Rocky Mountain News, was also one-sided and filled with inaccuracies.

In his blog responding to the article, Mr. Temple notes, "Some of his reporting doesn't meet the basic standards in which Potter and I were trained at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University."

In January of this year, your reporters included Andrew Romanoff in the "Plummeting Stock" section of "The 5280 Fifty" list of Denver's powerbrokers. The brief stated, "Challenging Michael Bennet in a party-damaging primary reads as a petulant ego trip." Your magazine has a habit of making sweeping character assessments with little or no basis in fact. Romanoff won the Colorado assembly by more than 60 percent. Your read on him is not only inaccurate but it is out of touch with Colorado.

My censure by the Office of Attorney Regulation is public knowledge. In fact, it was widely covered in the local media. At that time, I apologized for conduct of which I am not proud. This conduct does not characterize my 18-year law career, and neither does Potter's article.

I wish my former firm only the best. I am pleased to be practicing law in my own boutique firm. I am as involved in the Denver community as ever, and I plan to continue to support this place I call home in whatever way I can. Have I made mistakes? Of course I have. I've learned from mine and am moving on.
Willie Shepherd

As Maximillian Potter recounts in "Power Broken," Willie Shepherd was one of the first potential sources Potter contacted—nine months before the story went to press. Shepherd declined several requests for an interview but said that after the Attorney Regulation Counsel completed its investigation Shepherd would give Potter an interview. After the investigation was complete, Shepherd declined to sit for an in-person interview, offering only to respond to written questions with written answers that could be vetted by his attorney. After one round of such written questions and answers, 5280 concluded that a written interview would not be worthwhile. Contrary to Shepherd's assertion, John Gleason of OARC did not say that Potter's sources were motivated by vendetta; Mr. Gleason directed that comment specifically at the attorneys who filed the complaint with his office. 5280 stands by the reporting. —Eds.

I could not stop reading your article about Willie Shepherd and his apparent unethical practices within the legal realm. You did a terrific job in your research, and your writing style made it easy to track some complicated matters.

As a therapist, I immediately considered the personality disorder Narcissist Personality Disorder. Obviously, one cannot make a conclusive statement without knowing the person. It is outside the narcissist's capacity to consider how his behavior makes others feel. Instead it's all about him: He's the victim, and people who don't understand that are fools. Unfortunately the treatment for such a personality disorder is very limited, and that is sad for Mr. Shepherd.

I commend those who risked careers and the almost certain brutal backlash that comes from challenging such a person.
Lucille Zimmerman, MA, LPC
via e-mail

Wow! Great article indeed. Thank you for helping to expose the corruption in Denver's legal system, courts, and, of course, politics as usual. Keep them coming.
Jeff Lamdin
via e-mail

I just finished reading "Power Broken," and it was a page turner. It's not only about ethics, it's about the people Shepherd thought he could trust. His fellow partners did a "job" on that brother. Shepherd should have surrounded himself with people of color. Most unethical behavior is exhibited by white folks because they are never, ever suspected of wrong-doing until they get caught. Shepherd had the wrong (color of) people around him.
L.E. Moore