Glenwood Springs city clerk reviewing multiple campaign materials for possible violations
Additional information was requested Thursday from attorneys representing R2 Partners following a response to a campaign inquiry from the city clerk, Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon said.
After Glenwood Springs City Clerk Ryan Muse received a campaign letter supporting the annex in an upcoming special election, he contacted R2 Partners, the developer requesting the annex, about why neither R2 Partners nor Glenwood Partnership LLLP registered as issues committees or reported their campaign finances.
Both parties were identified in the letter as having paid for the campaign, which opposes Question B: asking city residents to repeal the City Council’s decision to annex property at 480 Donegan.
As clerk, Muse can address potential campaign violations, such as not reporting campaign finances or registering as an issues committee, if he discovers them himself or receives a formal complaint, Hanlon explained.
Muse’s inquiry was sent by mail dated March 29, and on behalf of R2 Partners and Glenwood Partnership, western Colorado law firm Balcomb & Green P.C. responded with a letter dated April 4.
The firm replied that city and state regulations identify an issues committee as a person or group of people formed in response to a specific ballot issue.
Because both R2 Partners and Glenwood Partnership existed prior to the special election, the developer’s attorneys stated neither group qualified as an issues committee.
Muse referred the response to the city attorney, because the clerk became aware of a potential campaign violation through means other than a formal complaint, Hanlon explained.
In addition to campaign letters from R2 Partners and Glenwood Partnership, Muse is reviewing campaign materials from multiple parties with interests in the outcome of the May election.
“The city clerk is also looking into door hangers, mailers and campaign signs that do not provide the required information, such as who paid for them or who sent them,” he said.
The May ballot also includes a question about whether or not to change the city’s charter, adding a stipulation stating the city cannot make significant changes to the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport without support from a majority of voters within city limits. Hanlon said some campaign materials from parties involved in the airport question are also under the clerk’s review.
“There’s a lot of this going on,” he said. “R2 Partners and Glenwood Partnership aren’t the only parties the city is reviewing for potential campaign infractions.”
If a campaign violation is identified, the hearing with the city clerk could be scheduled, at which time the clerk can decide if a “curable offense” occurred, Hanlon explained.
Campaign violation penalties can include requiring the offending party to file, register or report expenditures, depending on the clerk’s decision, he said.
“All of this is designed around compliance, transparency and trying to get that point,” Hanlon said. “From my perspective, the most important thing in campaign finance is that everybody knows what’s going on and who’s paying for what.”
Glenwood Springs Citizens for Sensible Development (GSCSD), the group who filed a referendum for repealing the annexation, registered as an issues committee.
Laurie Raymond, a local business owner and GSCSD spokesperson, said the group was not surprised by the exchange between the city and R2’s legal representation.
“It seems as though they are trying to have it both ways,” Raymond said. “We’ve had to follow all those steps, create an issues committee, keep all of our fundraising records and get permits for each of our signs.”
Formerly known as the West Glenwood Pasture Group, GSCSD started as a public Facebook group opposed to the city annexing property at 480 Donegan for the purpose of constructing a high-density residential development.
“Maybe the city will decide they have to follow the same rules we do,” Raymond said. “And thank goodness that’s not our decision.”
Regardless of the city’s decision on R2’s campaign, she said GSCSD has no plans to respond.
“We’re focused on the issues and getting the information out about what this annexation would consist of and the ways it would, as we see it, harm the community,” Raymond said.
On the developer’s side, R2 spokesperson Kathleen Wanatowicz said the company had little to add to its attorney’s response.
“Since day one, R2 Partners and Glenwood Partnership LLLP have been transparent in all our campaign materials,” Wanatowicz wrote in an email, “posting ‘Paid for by R2 Partners and Glenwood Partnership LLLP’ in every advertisement, including display ads, websites, yard signs and mailers.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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