Webmaster: Public doesn’t fund disputed sheriff site
The man responsible for placing a campaign funding solicitation on Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri’s website says no public funds were used to create the site.Don Kaufman, a Glenwood Springs attorney, contends that the solicitation, which has since been removed, was legal. He voluntarily created the website for Dalessandri, and it’s connected only by a hyperlink to the county’s publicly funded site, Kaufman said.”No public funds have ever been used in violation of the statute” in connection with Dalessandri’s site, Kaufman wrote in a sworn affidavit he submitted to Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf.But Alsdorf stands by her decision to ask for the solicitation to be removed, and said she would do the same thing if a similar situation arose.She said she made her decision at the strong urging of state election officials.”They told me to see that it gets off there as quickly as possible,” she said.Alsdorf said no legal action will be pursued in the case because no formal complaint has been filed.”Unless I receive a complaint, it won’t go further,” she said.Glenwood Springs Police Lt. Lou Vallario, the Republican who is running against Democrat Dalessandri this fall, has called the situation “an honest mistake with good intentions,” and Dalessandri has said he was unaware of the solicitation and it never should have happened.Kaufman said Dalessandri’s website is a private one, “created by a well intentioned volunteer, who spent hundreds of hours to donate the intellectual property to the public good, once perfected. I personally take full responsibility for all of the content and seek to build a better website to better inform the public.”However, he also argued, “Since this website is still owned privately with the intention to donate it to government, simple principles of `constitutional free speech’ protect its contents, at this stage.”But he added, “The objective of the website is to provide the public with the most honest, relevant, up-do-date information available. The objective is not to be political, it is to provide information to the public. As a volunteer, although severely discouraged, that is still my objective.”Kaufman said the website and domain named involved, http://www.garfieldcountysheriff.us, are owned by him and the law firm of Kaufman & Kaufman, the firm paid all the funds to design and create it, and it is hosted at the law firm’s expense, not the county’s. Likewise, the content is controlled by him, not the county, he said.He said he “created the website as a concerned citizen of Garfield County with the intention of donating said domain name, website, and content to the county as a volunteer.”The county website, http://www.garfield-county.com, did not contain the campaign solicitation, he said.While the county site is linked to the sheriff site, the same is the case for many other sites, said Kaufman. He listed numerous other governmental agencies, and private entities such as chambers of commerce, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, Sopris Surfers, and even area newspapers including the Post Independent, as all being linked to the county site.He said such links to the county website are normal “and helpful to the taxpayer,” allowing people “to obtain relevant information faster.”He added, “The county does not have the ability to monitor every single message in every single website.”Kaufman concluded his affidavit by arguing that the strength of the Internet derives from “anarchy by design,” and decentralization that boosts everyone’s access to information and encourages “the free flow flow of ideas to everyone.””Beware of any agency of any government that seeks to infringe upon our First Amendment rights,” Kaufman said.Alsdorf said she’s no expert on websites, but one of her problems with the campaign solicitation is that it was contained on a site that is accessed simply by clicking under the sheriff category of the county website.She said she’ll be checking websites linked to the county site from now on to make sure campaign laws are being followed.”I’m not that computer-literate, but I try to do what’s said in the statutes,” she said.Dalessandri said that while Kaufman’s affidavit clarifies the question of whether any public money was involved in funding the website, he continues to believe, and has told Kaufman, that a sheriff’s website should be about official sheriff business only. It shouldn’t be intermingled with campaign business, Dalessandri said.
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