DENVER — In an effort to deal with an increasingly-frustrated group of Aurora theater tragedy victims and their families, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has solicited the help of a mediation expert who oversaw compensation funds for victims of the Virginia Tech shootings, the BP oil spill and September 11th.
According to FOX31 sources, that man is Ken Feinberg. He will arrive in Denver Friday with the charge of resolving a dispute about the disbursement of $5 million donated to the Aurora Victim Recovery Fund.
“Some families have expressed interest in seeing a third-party fund administrator help with the distribution plan and process related to the Aurora Victim Relief Fund,” the source said. “As a result, the Governor’s Office, the Community First Foundation and the 7/20 Executive Committee have initiated discussions with Kenneth Feinberg and will meet with him to explore possible next steps.”
After arriving in Denver Friday morning, Feinberg quickly issued a statement to the media.
“This is horrible tragedy,” he said. “I’m glad to help in any way they want. I don’t want to be paid. I’m not looking to receive any compensation.”
Feinberg first rose to national prominence by doing just that — working pro bono for 33 months after being appointed by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to oversee the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.
Though initially criticized for being cold-hearted, Feinberg’s innovative approach to the disbursement of those donations ended up being universally hailed — if not universally respected — for his incredible attention to detail.
The process began with Feinberg estimating how much each victim of the September 11th terrorist attack would have earned over the course of a lifetime. If a family accepted the estimation-based financial offer from the Compensation Fund, it was not possible to appeal.
Families unhappy with the offer were able to appeal in an informal hearing, and able to present their case for as much compensation as they saw fit.
Feinberg, the same man initially criticized for being impersonal, presided over more than 900 of the 1,600 resulting hearings. At the end of the proceedings, $7 billion was awarded to 97 percent of the victims’ families.
A group claiming to speak for the Aurora theater tragedy’s victims and their families has fervently voiced its disappointment on multiple occasions about how the $5 million in donations is being disbursement by the Community First non-profit association, which was endorsed by Hickenlooper’s office.
Our source did not provide a timetable as to when meetings with Feinberg would conclude, or as to when a revised plan for the disbursement of the Aurora Victim Recovery Fund would be in place.