Aspen deaf camp sued by former director for arrears


One of the buildings at Aspen Deaf and Hard of Hearing Camp in Old Snowmass, pictured here on Sunday May 23, 2021.
Austin Colbert / The Snowmass Sun

The former executive director of the Aspen Deaf and Hard of Hearing Camp is suing the non-profit organization over claims owed to it for nearly $ 130,000 in compensation.

The lawsuit of Lesa Thomas, who served as the camp’s executive director for nearly three years until September 2018, was filed in Pitkin County District Court on September 15. The lawsuit noted that the association also received a written request for money and was given 14 days to heal Thomas.

The nonprofit did not respond to the letter, and serving the lawsuit on the organization is the next step, according to labor and employment attorney David Lichtenstein, whose Denver-based company has filed the complaint.

“We gave them time to do the right thing,” Lichtenstein said on Tuesday.

The association declined to comment.

“We have nothing to share at this time,” said Karen Immerso, treasurer of the Aspen Camp board, via an email message.

Thomas, who now lives in Texas, served as the organization’s executive director from December 15, 2015 until September 18, 2018, according to the complaint. His employment contract included room and board and an annual salary of $ 100,000, according to the lawsuit.

Yet in those three years at the helm, Thomas has not been compensated once for his agreed salary, according to the lawsuit. She received $ 71,833 in 2016, $ 46,250 in 2017 and $ 25,833 in 2018 when her employment ended in mid-September. A total of $ 127,236 is owed to Thomas from his employer, and the lawsuit said it would seek interest under Colorado’s wage claims law because of the deaf camp’s failure to respond to the ‘notice requiring payment.

“In the event that the defendant does not pay Ms. Thomas ‘salary and compensation within 14 days of Ms. Thomas’ written request, Ms. Thomas will be entitled to recover her unpaid wages and compensation, plus a penalty of 125 % of the first $ 7,500 of the unpaid amount and 50% of any additional amount, ”the lawsuit said.

The costume also made a claim for breach of contact.

Lichtenstein declined to answer questions regarding the nature of Thomas’ exit from the organization or why she continued to work when she was underpaid.

In an Aspen Times article published in March, Immerso acknowledged that the organization was “in debt” by the time Thomas, its last paid director, broke up.

The organization, which owns a 17-acre camp at Old Snowmass, suspended its summer programming for two years before returning last summer. The pandemic was part of the reason for the hiatus, as well as the financial challenges.

Immerso thanked the community and volunteers for their support this year, in a letter published in The Aspen Times in August.

“The two family camps in July served 19 adults, 15 children and nine families. Five volunteers from each camp worked hard to organize outdoor activities, prepared and served meals and revived the hopes of the camp’s founders and supporters in 1967, ”the letter reads.

Immerso also said the program is on the rebound.

“With the help of so many volunteers over the past two years, the camp facilities are in their best condition to welcome groups again. While this is a gentle relaunch of the camp’s mission, the Board of Directors and its supportive community will continue to move forward with its evolving vision of delivering educational experiences on its campus. unique and beautiful.

For the tax year ending October 31, 2019, the Aspen camp generated $ 75,141 in income – almost two-thirds from grants – and expenses of $ 91,677, according to the form’s tax returns. 990 of the non-profit organization, which are common knowledge.

It came out of operational red for the tax year ending October 31, 2020, with total income of $ 112,611 and $ 83,036 in expenses, according to tax records.

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