To know Brian Watson is to be wary of Brian Watson.
Watson is the Republican candidate running against Democrat Dave Young to become Colorado’s next State Treasurer. The battle for Treasurer is a top-of-the-ballot race that generates bottom-of-the-ballot interest, in part because it is an antiquated role that probably shouldn’t still be an elected position. This voter indifference plays to Watson’s advantage, because the more you learn about Watson, the more leery you become of putting him in charge of anything in the public sector.
Colorado GOP treasurer nominee Brian Watson, who has faced questions about the financial history of his businesses throughout this campaign, now is facing a lawsuit accusing him of breach of contract and civil threat — though the legal action came with an attempted “shakedown” from an associate of the plaintiff who threatened to take down his campaign and the campaigns of all Republicans in Colorado, Watson and his campaign staff said.
Watson is the owner and operator of Northstar Commercial Partners, a real-estate company that focuses on flipping what the DBJ calls “distressed assets.” Watson was also a failed Republican candidate for a State House seat in Southeast Denver in 2012 — a campaign that exposed problems like $280,000 in unpaid liens related to Watson’s business dealings — which brings us back to the DBJ story:
While Watson argues those issues account for just a small part of the $1.3 billion in assets his company owns in 16 states — and touts his problems during the economic downturn as having taught him valuable lessons moving forward — he vehemently denies the accusations in a lawsuit filed Aug. 16 in Denver County District Court by Painted Sky Partners, a financial brokering company. And that’s because that lawsuit deals not with the financial struggles that most businesses face but with accusations directly against Watson’s character. [Pols emphasis]
Lawyers for Painted Sky filed a motion for a preliminary injunction earlier this month, in which managing partner Adam Wimmer claims that Watson is refusing to pay him the $415,000 he is owed as party of a financing deal related to a $16.3 million development project. Watson argues that Wimmer didn’t deliver on whatever services were promised, and now he and his campaign are elevating their defense to a very weird level:
The dispute took another twist on Aug. 13 when Watson campaign manager Kyle Forti said that he and former Colorado Republican Party chairman Ryan Call met with a man identifying himself as an associate of Wimmer’s, after Call received a phone call from the man saying that he had a “serious issue” regarding Watson that he wanted to discuss with him.
During a meeting in Call’s Denver law office, the man detailed the allegations in the already-filed lawsuit and then said he would call local and national media and people he knew at the Republican National Committee and warned that “not only will Brian’s campaign be destroyed, it will bring down the entire Republican ticket in Colorado,” Forti said.
“He gave a 45-minute presentation basically threatening political suicide if we didn’t give him a check,” Forti said in an interview. “I would literally describe it as an extortion attempt.”
Forti and Call apparently filed a complaint with the Denver Police Department, but Denver’s economic crime unit closed the books after finding “no evidence of a substantial or credible threat to warrant further investigation.” The DBJ story does not identify this mystery man; Wimmer says he is familiar with the suspect but denies any knowledge of the reported meeting with Forti and Call. It’s unclear how any of this bizarre tale might help Watson’s legal defense, but the vagaries of the story cast an unscrupulous glow on Watson and his business affairs.
The reason this matters from a political perspective is because Watson has talked openly about the fact that he plans to continue his job at Northstar Commercial Partners even if he is elected as State Treasurer. In other words, this strange story reported by the DBJ could very well become the State of Colorado’s problem, too.
Our current Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, has barely made it into the office in the last eight years, but that doesn’t mean Colorado should be stuck with another indifferent incumbent — let alone someone with a shady business background like Watson. As the editorial board of the Aurora Sentinel wrote recently, Watson’s refusal to commit to being a full-time State Treasurer is reason enough to support his opponent:
No. Colorado is just now getting rid of another wealthy state treasurer, Walker Stapleton, who fumbled his so-called blind trust and ran his family business while working as the state treasurer.
While Watson has said he won’t take a salary from the state, it would be hard to prove he deserved one. While there’s not huge matters the state treasurer could undermine, Watson would have no credibility as an elected official whose priority lies in guarding his own wealth instead of that of the public. [Pols emphasis]
State Treasurer used to be a jumping-off point for becoming Governor (Democrat Roy Romer and Republican Bill Owens took this route to the Governor’s Mansion), but that was before the Internet tubes eliminated much of the value of whatever earned media coverage the State Treasurer could generate. We can’t say why someone like Watson would even want a job that he doesn’t plan to fulfill on a full-time basis, but we’re really not interested in finding out given his shady history.