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An ethical complaint has been filed against the mayor of Monument

Posted at 10:23 PM, Aug 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-24 00:23:52-04

MONUMENT — An ethics complaint has been filed against Monument Mayor Mitch LaKind. Three former town council members filed it through the state's Independent Ethics Commission.

The complaint stems from allegations that surfaced after last November's election.

In December the Monument town council voted to conduct an investigation into claims that taxpayer money was misused leading up to the election.

According to this complaint, in 2022, the Monument town council chose an attorney from Castle Rock, Grant Van Der Jagt, to investigate whether electioneering and misappropriation of funds happened in the run-up to the November 2022 election.

His investigation revealed the town paid a local print company more than $2,500 to make door hangers and yard signs in favor of ballot question 2A. The measure asked voters whether the town should adopt a new charter with a home-rule form of government. Voters approved of the home rule charter amendment 68 to 32 percent.

According to the investigator's report, he found, “an overwhelming amount of evidence and statements support that there was a deliberate attempt to purchase the materials in question with town funds, and then to hide that purchase from the public.”

A resolution document, number 27, from the town of Monument shows, that during the investigation, Mayor Mitch LaKind hired his own attorney, from the Sherman & Howard Law Firm to, “provide advice on matters related to the Van Der Jagt investigation.”

Once the investigator released his report, the town council passed a resolution disavowing it.

An invoice shows the law firm charged the mayor more than $20,000 for the work.

On April 3rd, the town council voted to use town money to pay those fees. A second town Resolution, number 28, states the firm was, “providing for the interests of the Town of Monument and therefore it is both legal and appropriate for the town to pay the invoice in the reduced amount of $20,737.00.”

Darcy Schoening and Kelly Elliott are former Monument City Council members. Both Elliott and Schoening as well as Amy Stephens filed the ethics complaint against Mayor LaKind.

“We are not talking about just the electioneering anymore, we are talking about the continued use of taxpayer money for election officials,” Schoening said.

Elliott, Schoening, and Stephens filed a complaint with the independent ethics commission on August 7, 2023. Both Schoening and Elliott expressed that using the town's money to pay for an attorney is not right.

“You're now going to pay your legal bills when you told the town in a town hall meeting that this was your attorney. That's your job to pay for that. We are not going to let the board abuse the taxpayers of Monument,” Elliott said.

When a complaint is first made the commission reviews it and decides whether or not it is frivolous. If it is deemed frivolous the commission does not investigate it. In this case, the ethics commission voted anonymously that the complaint was non-frivolous, meaning they would look into it.

The initial complaint filed to the IEC was more than 200 pages. The IEDC won't be investigating everything in the complaint. On Tuesday they released an Order of Dismissal.

It said the IEC focused only on whether the mayor attempted to influence members of the town council and if he had a personal private interest in meetings that happened on April 11th.

According to documents provided in the complaint, on April 11th, two resolutions discrediting the investigator's report and allowing the town to pay for the mayor's legal fees were signed.

Council member Steve King acted as the Mayor Pro Tem and signed Resolution 28 authorizing the town to pay for the Sherman & Howard attorney fee.

When News 5 reached out to Mayor LaKind on Tuesday for an interview, he was unaware an ethics complaint had been filed against him.

In a statement to News 5, he said; “I appreciate the opportunity to review and digest the complaint, which we just received late yesterday afternoon. Upon cursory review, the complaint includes a handful of allegations that carry no merit and have already been dismissed by the IEC on August 23, 2023. It is worth noting that the IEC has already asked for our response on two very narrow issues and the Town of Monument will respond within the 30-day timeframe. Because of these active investigations, I have been advised not to speak on those.

What I can say is we have absolutely nothing to hide and have been above board with our community, council members and staff and look forward to sharing our side of the story once the IEC investigation formally concludes. As an upstanding citizen of this community, and with a passion for the town in which I serve, I appreciate the understanding for myself and my family as we continue to navigate these unsubstantiated claims.”

Mayor LaKind has 30 days to respond to the complaint. After that or when he does respond the IEC will begin its investigation.

After the investigation is completed, the former councilwoman who filed the complaint as well as the mayor will receive a copy of the report. Then, there will be a hearing where both parties can provide evidence and arguments to the IEC commissioners. Those commissioners will then decide whether the mayor violated Colorado Ethics Laws. IEC does not know how long the investigation will take. Typically they are a few months but can take up to a year.

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