BY FREDA MIKLIN
After opening the door to the possibility of administering its own municipal election in November due to concerns about actions by the Arapahoe County clerk that disturbed some of its members, the Aurora City Council received a presentation April 8 in a study session. The presentation was made by Carolyn Boller, election commission chair, City Clerk Steve Ruger and Karen Goldman, consultant.
Charlie Richardson, the council member who raised the issue related to Arapahoe County Clerk Joan Lopez openly endorsing his election opponent, was not present for the study session.
Goldman reported discussing what might be possible with staff from the Secretary of State’s office, who told her they could not provide oversight for the upcoming Aurora municipal election. She told city council she also talked to Jim Candelarie, former county clerk for Broomfield, who expressed interest in acting as an election monitor if the city wished to retain him for that purpose.
Ruger said that the election commission was unclear how a monitor would address city council’s concerns but had some ideas about statements that could be added to the intragovernmental agreement between the city and the county clerk regarding the election that might add safeguards to the process.
Mayor Bob LeGare reported that he met with Lopez and Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners Chair Jeff Baker April 5 to share his concerns. LeGare determined that the staff who conducts election operations in the county clerk’s office was virtually unchanged since Lopez took over. On the question of Aurora running its own election in November, LeGare said, “I think that would be a big overreaction based on where we stand right now.”
Council member Dave Gruber wanted to know how Lopez felt about her actions supporting Richardson’s opponent that led to this situation. LeGare reported that Lopez did not seem to think it was a terribly big issue but that she would no longer endorse candidates on Facebook. Gruber raised the issue that a partisan group that he believed Lopez founded, had been recently transferred from her to her husband, with the telephone number associated with the group still being that of Lopez’s campaign.
Gruber proposed having the election for Aurora residents who live in Arapahoe County being potentially run by Douglas County. Goldman said she asked Douglas County officials about that and they declined. Gruber also proposed potentially adding language to the intergovernmental agreement with the Arapahoe County clerk’s office prohibiting the clerk and other top officials from accessing certain election data as votes come in.
After all city council members present weighed in, including Crystal Murillo, who said that she did not believe there was a consensus among council members that there was a problem that needed solving, Gruber brought the discussion back to, “Our responsibility is to ensure a fair and ethical election.”
After an hour of discussion, city council eliminated the options of holding their own independent election, hiring a contractor, or asking another county to conduct Aurora’s election, and retaining an election monitor. In the end, they decided to ask the election commission to recommend language to add to the intergovernmental agreement with the county clerk that would address their concerns, keeping in mind that it would have to be language the clerk would accept. In other words, to be continued….
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