CITY HALL BETRAYS ITS ONLY CONSERVATIVE
This sordid story would be great political fiction, except it's true. What City Hall did to Councilmember Helen Collins should not happen to any citizen. It is a factual account of city government corruption.
The dirty tactics of the recallers have already been exposed. See “Opposition” at CollinsforCouncil.com. This essay focuses on the dishonest and illegal actions of city employees and elected officials trying to railroad Helen Collins into a premature recall election.
They want her out of City Hall because she vocally dissents from their corrupt policies. She opposes secret meetings. She opposes tax and debt increases. She opposes giveaways of city funds and property. She refuses to take orders from developers who control her colleagues, the city attorney, and city clerk.
Recallers paid people from out of the county, and some out of state, up to $6 per recall signature. They did not disclose the source of that money. They filed their signatures January 8. The clerk found over 42% of their entries invalid, but she allowed just enough to hold a recall.
Douglas Bruce had asked the city clerk before she checked the signatures, if citizens could review them as well. Bruce has been involved in all aspects of state and city petitions for over 25 years. The clerk told him anyone could look, but no one could dispute her findings because a dispute process was “not listed in the charter.”
Bruce knew that public official actions can always be challenged and emailed the just-elected secretary of state, Colorado's chief election officer, Wayne Williams. He asked Williams for an official written opinion about the clerk's stonewalling. Williams, an attorney, had a staff attorney answer on January 23 at 6 p.m. The short answer about the signatures was that the city had a process “in the code” for citizens to challenge official findings. See that official letter at CollinsforCouncil.com under Illegal Election.
On January 14, the clerk claimed enough signatures. Bruce called the clerk's office the next morning. The clerk was gone for two days. Bruce asked to see petitions. The clerk was contacted by phone and passed the buck to the city attorney's office. Assistant City Attorney Britt Haley told Bruce he must file an open records request with the city. She claimed it would take a long time to “assemble” petitions (?) Bruce efiled immediately. The emailed reply was that it would take at least three business days and possibly an added seven business days (a total of two weeks) for a city decision on access.
Bruce then contacted Cindy Aubrey, the head of the Communications Department, who handles open records requests. Ms. Aubrey is leaving city employment shortly and provided access to the petitions.
Bruce saw the 61 petition sections (a stack about 4” high) the following afternoon. He reviewed about two-thirds of them, on their face only because he lacked access to current voter rolls. He saw dozens of entries allowed even though they were incomplete or illegible. Every petition section was a misprint; half the signature pages lacked the information titles on the other half, but the clerk counted those entries anyway. The clerk had printed the defective petition blanks.
Over the weekend, some photocopied sections were matched against current voter rolls. The clerk had allowed entries that did not match the voter roll data.
Council members were contacted and told a protest would be filed that would bring the validity total below the required amount.
On January 27, only 19 days into the 40-day protest period, the council prematurely voted, 7-to-2, to put the illegal and insufficient recall petition on the April 7 ballot. Only Andy Pico and Collins voted to honor the city law allowing time to challenge the signatures.
Council president Keith King did not recuse himself despite his overt conflict of interest; he voted to rush the election against Collins. But King has a charter school, and on its board is Deborah Hendrix. Hendrix heads the recall committee against Collins. Hendrix was also exposed in the media (see Media link) as owing the IRS $22,000 in back taxes, which she admitted, and pleading guilty to child neglect. Ironically, one of her chief complaints in her 200-word official criticism of Collins (see Opposition link insert) was that Helen did not abandon her friends who had court cases on appeal, one involving tax claims. King voted to help Hendrix pursue an illegal petition against Collins, while claiming he was “for Helen.” Some supporter.
It was the fault of recallers alone that they filed their petitions so late; the petition could have started last summer. City code section 5.1.511 provides citizens 40 days after the January 8 filing date to file a protest challenging signature validity. Recallers wanted to rush the process so there would not be due process of law. In aiding this scheme, city council denied all citizens their constitutional rights!
To stampede the council into voting for this premature election, city attorney Wynetta Massey repeated false estimates of the cost of a special election. The clerk's office said a special election for District 4 would cost up to $300,000. That is a lie. There are 25,000 active registered voters in District 4. The clerk confirmed in writing that ballots will be mailed only to active registered voters.
City ballots are mailed at non-profit rates. That's under 15 cents each. The city's own print shop can print mail ballots for the cost of the paper. Even if the city pays a private printer for this simple ballot and envelopes, the volume discount price would be 10 cents each. The low number of district ballots on a single question can be counted by hand. Let's say the total cost is 25 cents per voter address, or $6,250. No way is it TWELVE DOLLARS per ballot. That is inflated 50-fold! The city clerk and attorney lied to council to force a premature election before signature protest time expired. Isn't council obeying the rule of law worth a special election cost of two cents per citizen?
The mayoral run-off election is May 19. With four major candidates, it is likely no one will get a majority vote on April 7. If the protest fails and the district 4 special election is on May 19, it will cost only about $100 for ink for the ballot question. The mayoral run-off ballots and envelopes, printing and postage, can include the recall election for the ballots sent to District 4 voters.
Massey resents Helen for voting against Massey's pay raise to $192,000. Massey delayed Helen's proposed ordinance to lower business fees for over a year because Massey didn't like any reduction in city revenue that paid her salary. Helen's website home page criticizes Massey's salary. Massey requests repeatedly council meet in secret session. Helen believes in open, transparent government and says so before she votes to reject secret meetings.
Here's the legal snarl based on this city corruption. What if the protest proves the signatures were insufficient?
What if that occurs only months later, after an appeal to court? Does either void the election? Does the city tell citizens "Your votes don't count?" Do recallers still have the right to collect added signatures? Will City Hall allow a new protest of those signatures? If sufficient, will that lead to a second election? Will recallers have to collect double the signatures for a special election, as required by the city charter? If the premature recall succeeds based on insufficient signatures, does Collins have the right to appeal? Will she be removed from office before her appeal is decided? Will the person chosen to replace her be removed if she wins on appeal? Will the council votes cast by that illegal successor legally count?
WHAT A MESS! Thanks, City Council. Recall, anyone?