Silt political mailing raises campaign finance questions
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
SILT, Colorado – As Silt approaches election day, April 6, a political mailing by the Save Our Silt slate of candidates has raised questions about campaign finances and tactics.
The flier was mailed out last week to every postal customer in the Silt ZIP code, although many of those living within the 81652 area live outside of the town and cannot vote in the election.
It was mailed on behalf of candidates Rick Aluise, Silt’s former town administrator; businessman Bryan Fleming; incumbent Mayor Dave Moore; and former police officer Paul Taylor.
Tucked into the flier, on a separate piece of paper, was a narrow printed sheet with Fleming’s photo and campaign information on one side, and an advertisement and discount coupon for Aluise’s store, Silt Discount Liquors, on the other side.
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The ad announces discounted prices on beer, wine and liquor through May 15, with additional discounts for customers who bring the ad with them, and prompted some residents to question the mixing of commerce with politics.
One Silt resident, who spoke with the Post Independent about the flier but asked not to be identified in this story, asked a reporter, “Is this legal?”
Aluise could not be reached for comment on the story. A woman answering the phone at Silt Discount Liquors explained that he is out of town for a medical issue and would not return until April 1.
Mayor Dave Moore, when questioned about the flier and the ad, and whether it is within the state’s campaign finance laws, declared immediately, “Of course it’s legal!”
Although reluctant to discuss the flier’s financing, Moore noted, “I see a candidate with a business, and he probably wanted to kill two birds with one stone,” by combining the political with the commercial.
Candidate Paul Taylor added, “The thinking behind it was just to save money.”
He said the fliers had already been prepared by Aluise, with text written in a cooperative effort by the four candidates and then produced by Aluise. He surmised that the advertisement for his store probably had been conceived by Aluise at the last moment.
As for campaign expenses, Taylor said, each of the SOS candidates is paying his own costs.
A check with the town clerk’s office and the Colorado Secretary of State’s office revealed no indication that the use of the ad in the flier was illegal, but prompted questions among observers.
“The Silt Discount Liquor ‘wine special’ advertisement attached to the campaign flyer struck me as a bit odd,” commented former Mayor John Evans, who served the town for a decade until Dave Moore won the seat in the 2006 election. “A footnote stating ‘I am Silt Discount Liquor and I approve of this message’ would have at least been funny.”
A candidate in the slate opposing the SOS ticket, Bob Shiveley, said he had no particular concerns about the legality of the ad, but noted, “It doesn’t seem to fit. It’s tacky.”
Shiveley and others did have questions, however, about some of the facts presented in the flier.
For example, the SOS slate has endorsed the idea of eliminating the town attorney’s position from the staff, which is budgeted at just under $115,000 for 2010, and contracting with outside attorneys for future legal work needed by the town.
The flier claims, in part, that the town of Wellington (where Aluise once worked) spent $21,600 for “all legal services” in 2010.
But town administrator Larry Lorentzen said on Monday that the 2010 budget for legal services, with a firm in Fort Collins, is $88,500.
Another claim made in the flier is that the town of Silt spent $269,000 on the building and planning departments, which is another part of the local government that the SOS slate of candidates believes should be eliminated to save money.
But according to the town’s budget, available on the website, the town spent $207,940 for building and planning work in 2009.
The $269,000 figure was in the budget, said town administrator Betsy Suerth, but when the national recession hit the town that year the board of trustees laid off four positions, including a planner, which cut the department’s costs. For 2010, according to the online budget, the town plans to spend $171,255 on the building and planning divisions.
Overall, Suerth reported, the board saved $175,000 through budget cuts in 2009.
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