NewsCovering Colorado


Trustees schedule special meeting to investigate potential misuse of funds

Monument Board image Medium.jpeg
Posted at 8:48 PM, Dec 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-09 23:18:34-05

MONUMENT, Colorado — The Monument Board of Trustees has scheduled a special meeting for next Tuesday to launch an investigation into the potential misuse of taxpayer dollars. At issue is public money apparently spent to campaign in favor of the town's home rule charter amendment.

A campaign finance disclosure and an invoice from Tri-Lakes Printing indicate the town spent roughly $2,500 to buy 4,000 color door hangars and 125 18 x 24-inch yard signs with a message to 'Vote Yes' on the home rule charter amendment.

The trustees plan to hire an independent investigator to review whether the expense violated the Colorado Fair Campaign Practices Act which prohibits state and local governments from spending public money to campaign in support of ballot questions.

"There are laws in place for a reason, and we take this really seriously," said Trustee Darcy Schoening. "We're going to get to the bottom of how exactly this happened and how we can prevent it from happening in the future."

News 5 spoke with additional trustees who agreed with Schoening that the board was not made aware of the expenditure until after the election when the Citizens for Home Rule Committee submitted an amended campaign finance disclosure.

That disclosure lists the Town as the donor of a $2,500 Fair Market Value, Non-Monetary Contribution. The only other contribution disclosed by the committee was a $5 contribution to open a bank account.

"A voter should never have money taken from their pocket to affect an issue or to help a candidate get elected," Schoening said.

Mayor-elect and current Trustee Mitch LaKind explained that the dollar amount paid was small enough that board action generally would not be warranted. He said town staff must typically seek board approval for expenses greater than $25,000.

The creation of the charter amendment was a town activity. Schoening explained that the board voted to fund the commission that drafted the charter document with a budget to do its work.

"They were given $60,000 to work with, and some of that is permitted to be used on education materials," she said.

While the Fair Campaign Practices Act restricts state and local governments from spending public money campaigning for or against ballot issues, the law makes an exception for factual and educational materials.

An example is the Colorado State Ballot Information Booklet, commonly referred to as the Blue Book. That publication is paid for by taxpayers and provides readers with a factual summary of every statewide ballot question along with arguments in favor and opposing the measures.

"The materials in question are not educational," Schoening said. "They clearly say, vote yes on the home rule charter and that is not educational."

The agenda for Tuesday's special meeting states that the board plans to hire former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to serve as an independent investigator.

Schoening explained that this is necessary to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Kathryn Sellars, the current Town Attorney, also advised the Town's Home Rule Charter Commission.

"We feel that so that there's no conflict of interest that this is the best way to go," she said.

Schoening anticipates the investigation will wrap up by January 3. A new board will begin its term in office on New Year's Day.

The Fair Campaign Practices Act indicates that violations should be reported to the Colorado Secretary of State no later than 180 days after the date of the alleged violation. The secretary will then assign the complaint to an administrative law judge.

The party responsible for violating the act can be subject to a civil penalty of at least double and up to five times the amount contributed.

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