Rejected mayoral hopeful accused of vandalism, stalking
A judge granted a permanent restraining order barring a rejected mayoral candidate from interacting with his former boss and the Colorado Boy Brewpub in Ridgway.
During a 5 1/2-hour hearing featuring testimony about alleged vandalism with dog feces and distributing stickers disparaging the brewery, the court heard from witnesses who all said they feared David Gottorff and his recent practices of surveilling brewery customers and reporting them for suspected drunken driving to 911. Stating they felt his behavior was “unpredictable” and “odd,” they told the court they had become nervous, anxious and felt like they always needed to look over their shoulders as long as Gottorff might show up.
Judge Kurt A. Beckenhauer ruled Gottorff must avoid contact with Colorado Boy and its owners, as well as his former boss, Andy Michelich, whom Gottorff is accused of harassing in a related criminal case. Gottorff was arrested after an argument he had with Michelich at Colorado Boy last fall, according to court records. The argument stemmed from Michelich telling Gottorff he could no longer drive certain routes for him at Western Slope Rides, because a parent expressed concerns about Gottorff driving her children after she said he harassed her for not hiring him at a Ouray guide business.
Gottorff was arrested for alleged harassment of Michelich after the confrontation at Colorado Boy, after he refused to accept a summons from the marshal, according to court records. He’s scheduled for a jury trial in that case in May.
The latest complaints involve allegations that Gottorff retaliated against Colorado Boy, its patrons and employees after he was banned from returning to the brewery after the Oct. 16 incident with Michelich.
Attorney Roger Sagal, representing Colorado Boy and Michelich, argued Gottorff has a pattern of behavior where he retaliates against others and harasses them.
“He has an inability of self control and to stop himself from harassing and stalking behavior,” Sagal told the court. Sagal previously represented RIGS Fly Shop and Guide Service in a civil case Gottorff filed and lost after he was fired from working there in 2018.
After he was “86’ed” from the brewery, Colorado Boy owner Daniel Richards said stickers with a modified logo from Colorado Boy started appearing around Ouray, Ridgway and Montrose.
The logo looks similar to the brewery’s official logo but was changed to show a miner sitting on a toilet, with the words “sh***y pizza and beer” on the circular border.
Richards said Gottorff also started disparaging the business online and in beer enthusiast forums on social media, and posted a photo of the sticker and an altered photo of his brother, Dennis, in front of the sign for the Ouray location.
Sagal presented a video of Gottorff walking down the street in Ouray on Jan. 27, obtained from the Ouray Liquors security camera, which showed him walking two dogs and pausing to turn around and touch a metal trash bin. It’s not clear in the video what is left on the trash can, but Richards testified one of the stickers was found and removed from the can later. Sagal presented the court with a bag of stickers removed from several locations as evidence.
In an extended bout of back-and-forth questioning between Sagal and Gottorff, Sagal asked him if he made the disparaging sticker or had placed it around town. Gottorff said he didn’t make the stickers.
“You didn’t put the stickers around town?” Sagal asked at one point.
“I put stickers on things I own in Ridgway,” Gottorff replied.
When asked who made the stickers, Gottorff replied, “I’m going to exercise my Fifth Amendment right,” and refused to answer the question.
The judge said the Fifth Amendment didn’t apply in this case, as he wasn’t being asked to incriminate himself.
Asked again who made the stickers, Gottorff then said, “Why should I know?”
Asked where he got the stickers, he said he got them at Colorado Boy, seeming to be referring to the original stickers with the unaltered logo.
Asked again if he placed the modified stickers around town, Gottorff paused for several seconds and replied, “I have taken a sticker and placed it on something I own. I live in Ridgway.”
In another incident, Richards and Colorado Boy brewer Elliott Bell testified they believed Gottorff placed dog feces on the Colorado Boy company truck, which was parked in the Kate’s Place parking lot across from the brewery on Feb. 6, the day Gottorff was arraigned in the criminal case involving Michelich.
Both testified they had attended that hearing, and brought food back from the Ouray Colorado Boy restaurant to the Ridgway location. Bell returned to the truck after a short period of time and found two clumps of dog poop stuck on the back of the vehicle.
Sagal showed a video from a security camera showing Gottorff walking his dogs past the Colorado Boy just before Bell noticed the feces on the truck.
Two days later, Bell said he and his girlfriend, Lexi Trachy, said Gottorff followed them after they came out of the brewery and was recording them with his cellphone. Gottorff said he was recording them because Trachy almost ran over him as he was walking on the sidewalk. Trachy took a photo of Gottorff standing in front of her vehicle, photographing her license plate, which she had posted on social media as a warning to others after she discovered he had announced his candidacy for mayor.
Bell and Trachy both said they worry about what Gottorff might do next and they find his behavior unpredictable and odd.
“Ever since the the incident when we 86’ed him, it seems his behavior has ramped up,” Bell told the court.
Colorado Boy regular Josh White testified that Gottorff recorded him on his phone when he was enjoying a beer outside.
“He was sitting there staring at me the whole time,” said White, who used the word “creepy” more than once to describe the incident.
After finishing his beer, White said hi to Gottorff on his way to his truck. Gottorff allegedly replied, “Good luck driving.”
Ridgway Marshal Shane Schmalz testified that Gottorff had called in three DUI reports and had taken photos of patrons at Colorado Boy, including Trachy. None of those reports resulted in arrests. Schmalz also testified Gottorff had not called in reports of DUIs related to other businesses that serve alcohol.
Schmalz testified he knows Gottorff has filed at least four complaints against him personally. That’s in addition to a complaint Gottorff filed last year against a deputy who handled harassment complaints from Michelich about Gottorff.
Gottorff also protested the town’s decision to disqualify him from running for mayor based on his residency. Though he vowed to fight that decision, Gottorff’s mayoral campaign page was removed from social media this week. He did not respond to an email asking if he still considers himself a candidate.
Gottorff had filed his own requests for restraining orders with the court, claiming former Colorado Boy owner Tom Hennessy and Michelich had been harassing him. Neither of those was granted.
Gottorff took the stand to testify in the case involving his claims against Michelich on Monday. He told the court his former employer had tailgated him, recorded him with a cellphone and flipped him off on occasions. He also claimed Michelich was driving past his house and had harassed him.
Michelich said none of those claims was true and the opposite was happening – that Gottorff had started hanging out on a park bench on the corner near his business (which is also near Colorado Boy) staring in an intimidating way.
Gottorf was represented by Telluride attorney Jacqueline Distefano, who argued there were no eyewitnesses to the dog feces incident or the sticker incident in Ouray. She also said none of the witnesses testified Gottorff had threatened them physically.
“It’s necessary to make that restraining order permanent so this conduct can finally stop,” Sagal said. “Mr. Gottorff sort of has this tit-for-tat mentality.” He urged the judge to send a message with a permanent restraining order, adding, “I’m concerned, frankly, for the community at-large.”
The judge said he didn’t believe Gottorff’s testimony about the stickers, about the incident involving Bell and Trachy and also the incident where he claimed Michelich followed him, flipped him off and recorded him.
“I think Mr. Gottorff was not credible,” Beckenhauer said, adding the evidence showed the stickers started showing up after Gottorff was banned from Colorado Boy. He also cited concerns about the brewery losing customers and said Gottorff’s behavior had caused emotional distress for those involved.
“All these behaviors seem to come after someone has upset Mr. Gottorff and I think they’re designed to cause the emotional distress that they have caused,” Beckenhauer said.