State Rep. Brianna Titone (D-Arvada) has been accused of using her position as an elected official to “assert political pressure” on the Jefferson County District Attorney in a lawsuit filed by YouthSeen, a nonprofit that provides support for LGBTQ youth.
In the lawsuit filed in November, 2021, YouthSeen claims that TYES [Trans Youth Education and Support], a nonprofit that supports transgender youth and their families, engaged in racial discrimination, outrageous conduct, invasion of privacy, and breach of contract following a partnership between the two organizations in 2017 that ended after TYES accused YouthSeen and its executive director, Tara Jae, of misappropriating funds following TYES’s 2018 Family Camp.
In a counter claim filed in February, TYES denied YouthSeen’s allegations and accused YouthSeen of civil theft, fraudulent misrepresentation, and breach of contract.
The allegations of misappropriation of funds stem from TYES’s 2018 Family Camp for transgender youth. According to TYES, “Parents who attend TYES Family Camp pay the fees for the Camp, with some families receiving scholarships from the YMCA. To prepare for the TYES Family Camp, TYES leadership spends several months planning and budgeting to make sure that the costs of TYES Family Camp are covered.”
Following the 2018 camp, TYES presented YouthSeen with a $7,381 invoice from the YMCA for the camp. YouthSeen claims, “After the invoice for Family Camp was presented to YouthSeen for payment, YouthSeen became aware for the first time that TYES had entered into a contract with the YMCA for 2018 Family Camp, without first consulting or even informing YouthSeen. There were not enough TYES funds in the Bellco Account to pay the invoice. TYES had already spent its available funds on operating costs and other administrative and allocated items.”
According to TYES, “On or around November 5, 2018, (43 days after TYES had first requested its financial documents) YouthSeen provided TYES with a five-page document purporting to be a ‘TYES General Ledger,’ showing deposits to and payments from TYES’s funds. The document shows marks suggesting that it was cut-and-pasted together, calling into question its veracity. The document identifies $8,693 in deposits for ‘TYES Family Camp,’ which should have covered the YMCA invoice. Exhibit B at 1. The document contains a number of payments that TYES did not authorize, including $1,184.17 in payments related to the Estes Park Resort in April and May 2018.”
Titone is a member of TYES’s board of directors, and declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit. According to YouthSeen’s complaint, Titone accompanied TYES’s lawyer during a Jan. 20, 2021, virtual meeting with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office. TYES admits they submitted a report to the Colorado Secretary of State Charities Program, which explained that YouthSeen could not account for TYES’s funds, and that following the conclusion of the state’s investigation, which YouthSeen claims showed “there was insufficient evidence to show that [YouthSeen] is currently in violation of the Colorado Charitable Solicitations Act,” TYES’s lawyer, Constantine Spheeris, requested a meeting with the Jefferson County District Attorney.
According to YouthSeen’s complaint, “Colorado State House of Representative Brianna Titone (“State Representative Titone”) attended the meeting with the Jeffco DA on behalf of TYES. Upon information and belief, State Representative Titone attended the meeting for the sole purpose of asserting political pressure upon the Jeffco DA to file criminal charges against Dr. [Jae]. Prior to the January meeting, Rep. Titone had never been involved in the TYES/YouthSeen partnership. During this meeting and even after being told yet again by the Deputy District Attorney that there was insufficient evidence to show that a theft had occurred, Mr. Spheeris continued his attempts to persuade the District Attorney’s Office to bring criminal charges against Dr. [Jae].”
In response to YouthSeen’s claims, TYES denied that Titone attempted to “assert political pressure” and claimed, “Rep. Titone was not involved with TYES during YouthSeen’s brief fiscal sponsorship of TYES, but became a member of the TYES Board of Directors in January 2020.”
YouthSeen claims that TYES’s complaint to the Colorado Secretary of State Charities Program and the Jefferson County District Attorney were tantamount to defamation. “At all times, Dr. [Jae] and YouthSeen fully complied with requests from the Jeffco DA, all the while being disparaged and accused of criminal conduct by Mr. Spheeris, TYES, and Ms. Blackburn in and among the LGBTQIA communities,” reads the complaint. “Because of TYES, Ms. [Alisha] Blackburn [former member of TYES’s executive team and board of directors], and Mr. Spheeris’s actions, Dr. [Jae] has lived under an unjustified cloud of police and State suspicion for years. As a result of Ms. Blackburn’s false accusations and disparaging statements to those in the LGBTQIA community about Dr. [Jae], Dr. [Jae] and YouthSeen’s reputations have been irretrievably damaged.”
According to TYES, YouthSeen’s complaints of racial discrimination were tantamount to defamation. “Dr. [Jae] has engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct, namely falsely accusing TYES and Ms. Blackburn of racial discrimination in order to hide Dr. [Jae’s] own misappropriation of TYES funds, and making other false and outrageous comments to other TYES members and other non-profits in the Denver area serving the transgender and LGBTQIA community, including PFLAG Denver and PFLAG Boulder,” read the TYES counterclaim.
Read the full complaint and response:
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story used Jae’s former name, which is used in the court documents.