Lawmaker hopes to avoid paying for son's crimes
Angela Dire; Gazette Telegraph
DENVER -Last year, state Rep. Doug Lamborn joined his fellow lawmakers in increasing the amount of restitution that parents must pay when their minor children commit acts of vandalism. But the Colorado Springs Republican has yet to pay the $3,500 court-ordered restitution for property his own teen-age son destroyed in two 1993 arsons. He's scheduled to appear in court today, and he will ask El Paso County Juvenile Magistrate Regina Walter to excuse him from paying any damages for his son's actions. Lamborn contends that he's protected by a provision in the law that says a judge can absolve parents from paying restitution if they've made a "good faith effort" to keep their children out of trouble. "It's a tough issue," he said Monday. "The courts have the discretion to look at each individual family. Sometimes parents should be responsible, but sometimes they are victims as well." Lamborn said his son -not him -should be responsible. He added that his son has paid some money toward the damages, but can't afford much at a time. The lawmaker's reluctance to pay angers John Barney, the Colorado Springs resident whose truck and construction trailer were destroyed by Lamborn's son and another youngster on two occasions in April 1993. Barney estimates he lost $130,000 in property. "The other boy's parents were extremely remorseful for what happened," said Barney. "They took responsiblity for their son's actions -right down to making him go down and finish cleaning up the site. But here this guy stands up and says `I see a loophole in the law.' What does that do for that boy who says: `Oh boy, my daddy shows me how we can get around this.' " Copies of court records, obtained from Barney, show that Lamborn's son was involved in four arsons in the Gleneagle area of Colorado Springs in spring 1993. Both youths were sentenced to probation for the incidents. In July 1995, the court determined the boys were responsible for a total of $37,786 in restitution. Of that, Lamborn and his wife were ordered to pay $3,500. While the case was pending, Lamborn played an influential role in crafting legislation that eventually raised the cap on restitution for parents from $3,500 to $5,000. Initially, the bill's sponsor -Rep. Doug Friednash, D-Denver -had wanted no limits on the amount of restitution judges could order parents to pay. Lamborn voted against that early draft of the bill in the House Judiciary Committee. He voted against the bill again on the House floor when the cap was raised from $3,500 to $10,000. But he voted for the final version of the bill -with the $5,000 cap - because, "I felt that with the effects of inflation that amount should have been raised." The Colorado Springs lawmaker also fought a provision that would have prevented parents from filing claims on their homeowners' insurance to pay for restitution. "They may be forced into bankruptcy," he said at the time. Later, Lamborn was appointed to a special conference committee where members of the House and the Senate ironed out differences on the bill. The Senate had added the insurance provision, and Lamborn led the effort to remove it again. The 1995 law will not apply to Lamborn's 1993 case. Still, some observers wonder whether he should have disclosed his case and possibly abstained from voting on the bill. House rules require a lawmaker "who has an immediate personal or financial interest" in any pending legislation to "disclose the fact to the House" and abstain from voting on the measure. "I don't think there is a clear answer," Ric Bainter, executive director of the legislative watchdog group Common Cause, said of Lamborn's case. "If I were Rep. Lamborn, I might have erred on the side of caution and abstained from voting." Lamborn said he doesn't see a conflict because the new law "was to set the future policy of Colorado and won't apply to old incidents." Though he is generally supportive of laws that increase the onus on parents to take responsibility for their children, he insists there must be exceptions. "It's a balancing act," he said. "You can do everything you can as best as you know how and that doesn't guarantee there will be no problems. There are some bad kids out there, but there are others who only made a bad mistake. And there are some bad parents out there and there are some parents who are trying their best." Angela Dire; Gazette Telegraph Lawmaker hopes to avoid paying for son's crimes DENVER -Last year, state Rep. Doug Lamborn joined his fellow lawmakers in increasing the amount of restitution that parents must pay when their minor children commit acts of vandalism.