Above photo: From left to right: Darren O’Connor, Representative McCann, Joe Boven, ???, Governor Hickenlooper, Representative Williams, Leonard McWilliams.
Friday saw the signing of several foreclosure bills, including Representative McCann’s HB14-1295. The bill carries forward the less contentious protections sought in last year’s Colorado Mortgage Accountability and Housing Stabilization Act against dual tracking and requiring single points of contact. Having sought greater protections in both 2011 and 2012 (with HB12-1156 and HB13-1249), McCann carried the fight forward this year, albeit in the form of a smaller move forward, and one that many fear will bring little to no protections. Williams was a co-sponsor of this years bill, after leading the effort to kill HB13-1249 last year in her committee. Many believe she was keen to sponsor foreclosure legislation this year in order to counter the assertions by O’Connor and many other members of the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition that she was working on behalf of banks, rather than homeowners. Williams sponsored her own bill, HB14-1312, extending the HUD deferment program, also signed on Friday. This will continue an ineffectual, supposed protection to homeowners that are savvy enough to apply for the deferment within days of receiving their foreclosure notice. The timeline of a foreclosure and of the guidelines of the program are such that only a lucky and incredibly pro-active few homeowners will benefit from the law.
Despite Mr. O’Connor’s consistent efforts to challenge Representative Williams for her leadership on behalf of banks last year in killing the more effective legislation that came through the Business, Labor, Economic and Workforce Development Committee she chaired, he was invited to be part of the signing of the new legislation on Friday, May 9th. Out of respect for McCann’s uninterrupted efforts on behalf of homeowners, and believing his efforts may have created space for these laws to be passed because of the political pressure applied over the past year, he attended.
The gathering was somewhat charged, at least for Williams and O’Connor, by the fact that O’Connor filed a lawsuit against Williams just one day prior, on May 8th, for infringing on his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights back in October of 2013, when she filed a civil protection order against O’Connor. An article in the Denver Post came out that day. A second piece followed, this time an editorial calling O’Connor a zealot. The editorial attempted to paint O’Connor as threatening, even as it reported that he spoke only about foreclosures to Williams under the protections of the First Amendment. The author also chose to ignore the fact that O’Connor attended the signing of Williams’ own legislation in the Governor’s office.
The press release from O’Connors attorneys follows. A link to the suit and supporting documents is here.
Date: May 8, 2014
Re: Colorado State Representative Angela Williams Sued in Federal Court for Retaliating Against Free Speech Activity
Colorado State Representative Angela Williams was sued in Colorado Federal District Court on Thursday by Darren O’Connor, an activist involved in advocacy related to the rights and protections available to people and families whose homes are being foreclosed upon. The lawsuit alleges that Representative Williams retaliated against Mr. O’Connor because of his constitutionally-protected free speech and advocacy on policies regarding protecting homeowners from unfair home foreclosure practices by the banking and lending industries. Mr. O’Connor’s outspoken advocacy in 2013 revealed that Representative Williams, who represents the Montbello region in Denver, was far more friendly to banking and lending interests than to individuals (including her own constituents) who have undergone foreclosure proceedings on their homes in the last several years. The suit points out that while Representative Williams claimed in her public speeches that she was sympathetic to the plight of families undergoing foreclosures, in actuality she worked very hard to kill measures designed to provide protection and relief to such families. The lawsuit alleges that instead of discussing and debating these issues with Mr. O’Connor and others in public meetings and assemblies, Representative Williams instead caused the police to serve a Motion for Protective Order on Mr. O’Connor, falsely accusing him of threatening her. In fact, all of Mr. O’Connor’s activities were legal, professional and protected by the United States Constitution. Mr. O’Connor was forced to hire his own lawyer at considerable expense to defeat the frivolous legal action filed against him. When the Protective Order hearing went to court, a Denver Judge resoundingly rejected Representative Williams’ attempt to illegally silence him, saying that to do so would violate his important constitutional rights to free speech.
The lawsuit filed today claims that Representative Williams’ conduct in causing Mr. O’Connor to go through the legal proceedings was illegal retaliation for his free speech, and an attempt to silence him and others in the future. Such conduct violates the federal and state constitutions, and violates the oath of office taken by Representative Williams as an elected public official. The lawsuit seeks all available remedies allowed by law, which could include a court injunction and declaration, damages and attorney fees. For his part, Mr. O’Connor seeks primarily to expose Representative Williams’ unconstitutional behavior to the public and to the voters in her district, and to educate the electorate on the behavior of its elected officials.
Darold W. Killmer of the Denver civil rights law firm of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP filed the lawsuit on Mr. O’Connor’s behalf. Mr. Killmer noted that the lawsuit “raises crucial issues regarding our right to free speech and our right to criticize powerful governmental officials. Representative Williams summoned the police and the court system to help her crush a dissenting voice. Fortunately, a judge stopped her in her tracks. But Williams’ message was loud and clear: if you try to cross me, I will silence you. If elected officials are permitted to fire up the system against regular people like Mr. O’Connor, who speak out on important public issues, then our proud system of freedoms and liberty is just an illusion.” Killmer notes that “this is what our federal courts are for: to enforce our cherished constitutional rights to free speech, even if such speech angers important government officials.”
Darren O’Connor, the plaintiff in this federal civil rights action, may be contacted at (720) 961-3869