News 5 Investigates

Jul 10, 2014 6:25 PM by Eric Ross

Judge rules El Paso County tax assessor violated campaign finance laws

UPDATE:

A judge has ordered El Paso County tax assessor Mark Lowderman pay $14,580 in fines.

Karon McCormick filed a formal complaint with the Secretary of State's Office alleging Lowderman used $7,000 in taxpayer funds to mail out campaign-related flyers to more than 20,000 citizens in order to gain votes in his race for the county treasurer seat.

Half of the $14,580 fine will go to the State, while the remaining will go back to El Paso County as a reimbursement.

Lowderman was out of the office Thursday, but did tell News 5 over the phone that he's disappointed with the ruling and plans on appealing the case.

McCormick is calling for Lowderman to step down.

ORIGINAL STORY (JUNE 2014 AIR DATE):

A Colorado Springs political activist filed a formal complaint with the Secretary of State's Office accusing El Paso County tax assessor Mark Lowderman of using taxpayer dollars to send out campaign mailers to promote his race to become the next county treasurer.

Commissioner Darryl Glenn says he received an email last week about possible campaign violations involving not only Lowderman, but commissioner Sallie Clark.

Meanwhile, Lowderman says this controversy is nothing more than dirty politics and says he's done nothing wrong.

To read the complaint on file with the Secretary of State's Office, click here:

Lowderman Complaint.pdf

Lowderman insists the letters were not campaign related. He argues this was nothing more than an informational flyer letting senior citizens know about a homestead tax exemption adopted under the state's budget this year.

He says the timing of mailing the letters out was just a coincidence.

"I'm sorry it just happened that way," Lowderman said. "To tell you the truth, I never really thought of it. The reason it went out at the time frame it did is because we waited for the General Assembly to break for the summer. Sure I'm running for county treasurer, but I'm still the county assessor and in my mind, I've got obligations to the citizens who gave me this office."

Lowderman says one of his obligations is keeping residents informed about tax programs and other exemptions.

Commissioner Darryl Glenn wants to make sure proper procedures were followed and that nobody stepped out of line, including commissioner Sallie Clark, who is also accused of playing a role in getting those controversial flyers mailed out.

"With everything that is going on these days, we have a responsibility to give everyone an opportunity including Commissioner Clark to take a look (into the matter) and see whether anything was inappropriate," Glenn said.

Clark was not available for an on-camera interview Thursday, but did send News 5 the following statement:

"The State's Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption was approved for funding by the State Legislature in this year's session. In this communication, El Paso County was able to ensure that our citizens, especially those without web access, were informed about this potential tax break to qualifying seniors. Through the mailer, it was a great opportunity to share at no additional cost, a program that offers El Paso County citizens a chance to save from 20-50% on prescription medications and introduce them to new health discounts available in partnership with National Association of Counties (NACo). El Paso County has participated in NACo's prescription discount plan since 2009 and as a result, our El Paso County citizens have saved over half-a-million dollars. This was a win-win situation to communicate not only an important program which gives tax breaks to senior citizens, but also provides information to citizens that might otherwise not have prescription coverage, so needed during these tough economic times."

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