LAMAR, Colorado — A Colorado district court judge invalidated the elections results of two ballot questions passed by voters in Lamar in November allowing for retail and medical marijuana to be sold and taxed within city limits. Ballot questions 2A and 2B were referred to the ballot as a result of a citizens' petition drive.
Judge Mike Davidson found that the city violated its charter when putting the questions on the ballot and declared as void both the questions and the city ordinances which referred them to the ballot. He further set aside the election results as invalid. The lawsuit was filed in January by a voter named Wanda Rohlman and much of the evidence presented in court was provided as a result of research performed by Belinda Sturges.
"I looked at all the petitions and found out there were problems, I asked for additional information through an open records request," Sturges said.
The city charter requires citizens who petition questions for the ballot to collect a number of signatures equal to 15 percent of the turnout from the most recent election. In the case of issues 2A and 2B, that would amount to 645 signatures. Sturges discovered emails between the city and the campaign proponents SoCo Rocks that the ballot questions were erroneously deemed sufficient by the city clerk after reaching 224 signatures, roughly 5 percent of the previous turnout.
"So, during this whole petition gathering, there were emails from SoCo Rock saying getting signatures is hard, getting signatures is tough. And then the next thing you know, we have our 200 signatures to satisfy the petition. And I was like, well who changed it," she said.
Brent Bates volunteered for the SoCo Rocks campaign and thinks that the court ruling defies the will of the voters."I understand why Judge Davidson made his decision, the city made a mistake and supplied the wrong information to SoCo Rocks and to (campaign manager) Cindy (Sovine.) So, I get why he made that decision but he also went against the will of the voters," Bates said.
He believes that because the ruling was based on an error by the city, the council should refer the question to the ballot themselves without requiring another petition.
"They can be the heroes in that sense, to come back and say listen, we made a mistake, mistakes happen. It wasn't a malicious mistake, but we need to as the city council put these initiatives back on the 2023 ballot and allow the citizens to vote again," Bates said.
Sturges pointed out that the city council and mayor maintained a position of neutrality towards the ballot questions last year. She thinks the campaign should have to go back and petition again.
"What I thought the city would do when the ruling came out was just we made errors, were human. We made mistakes. Were going to let it lie. If someone wants to bring it, they have to do it the correct way and just be done with it," she said.
Monday's special meeting will begin at Lamar City Hall,102 E Parmenter Street at 6:00 p.m. as a work session. That will be followed by a regular meeting of the council at 7:00 p.m. to take any votes on proposals that come out of the work session.
Mayor Kirk Crespin said that the regular meeting will be broadcast live on the city's Facebook page. However, the work session will not.