The first news story details a tragic death on Salazar's ranch. This occurs prior to both Salazars' being elected to federal positions.
The fact that the departed is an illegal alien is never mentioned in the first news report.
Man dies in ranch accident
Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2003 12:00 am
By Erin Smith, Pueblo Chieftain
MANASSA - Funeral services are scheduled at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Conejos for an Antonito farm worker killed Friday at El Rancho Salazar, which is owned by the family of state Attorney General Ken Salazar and his older brother, state Rep. John Salazar.
Conejos County Undersheriff Eric Mullens said Monday that Juan Ramon Hernandez, 35, was killed about 3:40 p.m. Friday when he apparently fell into a portable potato sorter while he was cleaning it with a power sprayer.
Other details of the accident were unavailable. Mullens said the officer responsible for the report had not filed it as of Monday.
The Salazar brothers were not at the ranch when the accident happened.
In this next news article candidate Walcher raises the issue but he doesn't ask the right questions of John Salazar.
The Pueblo Chieftain is the only major paper to report the incident but even they don't really connect the facts that the Salazar's are hiring illegals and having them work in unsafe conditions.
No one ever questions Ken Salazar about it. He was Colorado Attorney General at the time and they were probably intimidated.
The Salazars get off with a $750 OSHA citation.
Feds confirm that farmworker's death an accident
Posted: Thursday, October 28, 2004 12:00 am
By Peter Roper, Pueblo Chieftain
Federal safety officials said this week that the death of a farmworker on Democratic state Rep. John Salazar's farm last year was an accident and that Salazar was fully cooperative in the investigation, which resulted in a $750 fine.
"This was an accident and a tragedy," said John Healy, head of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration office's in Englewood. "Mr. Salazar cooperated fully with the investigation. There wasn't any question of negligence or any effort to withhold evidence on his part."
Juan Ramon Hernandez, 35, had worked on Salazar's farm for several years when he was cleaning a potato sorter on Oct. 10 last year. Hernandez was working alone and apparently fell into the machinery, according to OSHA. Salazar was not at the farm when the accident happened.
The OSHA investigation report says Salazar was cited for not having an automatic power shutoff on the sorter - although Healy noted that is not required on agricultural machinery - and for not providing more safety instruction. Healy said that OSHA could have fined Salazar $1,500 but reduced it to $750.
Republican Greg Walcher, Salazar's opponent in the 3rd Congressional District race, apparently thought that Hernandez's death could be made into a campaign issue because he questioned Salazar about it during their fifth and final debate at Adams State College in Alamosa last week. It was the first time Walcher had mentioned the incident and it clearly surprised Salazar, who replied that Hernandez's death was an accident. He defended his farm operation, however, saying the OSHA citation was not a serious one.
At the debate, Walcher backed away from making any allegations about the incident. He told the audience that OSHA officials had refused to release the final investigation report to his staff. So he challenged Salazar to do so.
Healy said investigation reports are public records and that no one had requested the Salazar report until a Denver newspaper did so this week.
"I'm in charge of releasing OSHA reports and I haven't refused to provide this report to anyone," Healy said Wednesday.
John Marshall, Walcher's spokesman, said that there may have been confusion on the part of Walcher's staff about public access to the report.
He insisted that Salazar should be held accountable for having described the accident as less than serious. "(Salazar) stood there in front of 400 people and said this wasn't a serious accident," Marshall said.
Asked if he thought Salazar was reacting in surprise to Walcher's questions about the accident, Marshall said that may have been the case. "But the OSHA citation says the accident was serious," he said.
The OSHA notice does refer to the accident as a serious incident, because it involved a death, but Healy noted that the fine was significantly reduced because of Salazar's cooperation and the lack of previous violations.
Salazar was in Pueblo campaigning Wednesday and said Walcher's questions about the farm accident were a signal the Republican is losing the race for Congress. Salazar said he'd known Hernandez for years and grieved over the accident.
"I haven't wanted to respond to this but it's the sign of a drowning man that (Walcher) would try and make an issue out of this man's death," Salazar said.
Salazar told reporters this week that he did not know that Hernandez was an illegal immigrant because the man had lived in Antonito for years and had worked for Salazar for three years.
To most readers this illegal worker part goes unnoticed because it doesn't appear until the very last line of the 2nd newspaper article.
Of course Salazar knew. Everyone knows everyone else's business in these communities.
No one has ever called out the Salazar's publicly on the practice of hiring illegals.
It is troubling that Salazar calls the violation "less than serious" even though it results in death.