Colorado

Aug 12, 2014 6:27 PM by Andy Koen

Pueblo Councilman Kaufman resigns

PUEBLO - City Councilman Chris Kaufman is stepping down. The at Large Councilman said he is leaving in the middle of his second term because the constant accusation he broke public meetings laws has hurt his reputation, his family and his business.

In his resignation letter, Kaufman calls the local newspaper judge, jury and executioner of his political career.

"Charges were levied, the court hearing was held and judgment was pronounced by our local paper," he wrote.

Speaking exclusively to News 5, Kaufman said he believes the publisher wants to whip up public resentment against him and two other council members because of their idea to use the PEDCO half cent sales tax to fix up the city.

"The half cent sales tax is approaching $50 million in Pueblo. It is not owned by the paper, contrary to their opinion, it is not owned by PEDCO," Kaufman said. "PEDCO is quick to tell you that they don't own it."

Kaufman, Council President Sandy Daff and Councilwoman Ami Nawrocki all faced calls for their resignation at Monday night's board meeting, the first meeting held since the public release of a series of emails between the three and Pueblo County Transportation Director Greg Severance.

In those emails, Severance seems to coach the group on how to address issues like the PEDCO controversy and a citizen referendum to overturn the hiring of a trash consultant. The paper called one specific thread in which Severance details his "Bazooka Plan" for the council members an illegal public meeting.

"I have been dealing with this for 10 days straight with this allegation of illegality and being a racist for a full week now with no opportunity to speak my case."

However, the public may have already made up it's mind.

Becky Cortese and her husband Frank are working to circulate a petitions to recall the three council members.

"The people of Pueblo deserve better leadership than what has been displayed among these three council members."

Yes, Cortese said they were insulted by the Severance emails calling them "mafia haulers" and "a street gang." However, they had initiated the recall effort even before the emails were released.

"These three council members have continuously violated the open meetings laws, they have refused to listen to the will of their constituents and they are not upholding the moral and ethical values that citizens of Pueblo expect them to have," she said.

They submitted recall petitions sheets to the Pueblo City Clerk's Office Tuesday. Once the Clerk certifies the petition, they will have 60 days to gather the signatures required to force an election.

The threshold is set at 25 percent of the number of votes each council member received during their last election. Kaufman was elected at large and the petitioners would have needed to collect 11,593 signatures from voters citywide to force a recall.

Daff and Nawrocki were elected to represent individual council districts. For Daff that would mean 1,251 signatures in Council District 4 and for Nawrocki 1,586 signatures in Council District 1.

City Clerk Gina Dutcher said the deadline to put the recall election on the November ballot has passed. Should the petition drive prove successful, tax payers would likely have to pay to hold a special election in either late January or early February.

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