Thursday, March 18, 2010

Watch the establishment take its Toll

Erin Toll, a Colorado government official, "was dangerously visible, perhaps overly visible" for the Colorado business community, according to a mortgage broker quoted in the Denver Post this morning.

"Dangerously visible" is especially dangerous in Colorado for anyone who is not part of the state's power elite, meaning the very rich business class, or the highest of elected officials, or the unquestionably successful and usually retired establishment.
Photo credit: Erin Toll,

On the high side of that equation, think of Phil Anschutz or Pat Bowlen or Bill Owens. On the opposite side, consider Clinton Portis, Herman Malone or Erin Toll.

When you are "dangerously visible" in Colorado, meaning you probably talk too much, you might as well get out of town because the unquestionably successful establishment has no room for you.

Witness Erin Toll. The Post today tried to explain Toll's unexplained, sudden leave of absence from her job as executive director of the state's Division of Real Estate, where she was given the charge of regulating previously unregulated mortgage brokers.

Mortgage brokers were a high-flying segment of the real estate industry in Colorado five years ago until their nefarious practices brought the real-estate economy low and put Colorado at the top of state rankings for the most home foreclosures.

Toll got her position in the Ritter administration in 2006 because she gained Colorado and herself national recognition for her investigation of title insurers, another segment of the real estate industry.

But real estate is a powerful economic engine in the state of Colorado, and you can bet Toll's enemies have been lying in wait ever since.

A Highlands Ranch Republican state senator, Ted Harvey, thinks he was handed the establishment hammer recently when Toll told the press his company was under investigation for false advertising, one of the tools unregulated mortgage brokers used often to get homeowners into trouble way back when.

The hammer came down when Harvey took after Toll during a legislative committee meeting.

Only the power elite knows why the Ritter administration hasn't backed up their real-estate regulator and told Harvey to go away. A judge has already backed her up, but that may have been an oversight.

The game is still in play, and Toll may still survive the presumed arrogance of doing her job. That would be a healthy sign for Colorado. It might also prevent some future crisis in the real-estate market.

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