After some residents suggested she check the validity of signatures on the petition to recall her, Castle Rock Town Councilmember Renee Valentine took a small sampling to the Douglas County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
“They came to us with a half-dozen (signatures) and said ‘These don’t look right to us,’ ” said Merlin Klotz, Douglas County clerk and recorder. “Our person looked at it and said, ‘I have to wonder, too.’ ”
Based on this informal comparison, Valentine withdrew her protest to the recall petition on June 2, the day before the scheduled protest hearing.
“I did not want to be the one challenging signatures,” she said. “I thought it best to go to a third party.”
Now, she’s asked the 18th Judicial District to investigate whether signatures on the petition were forged.
The petitioners seeking Valentine’s recall — residents Jeff Linn, Amy Fienen and Sid Brooks — said they have been advised by legal counsel not to comment.
Valentine is one of three councilmembers targeted for recall by a group of residents who say town leaders are ignoring their voices. A mail-in ballot election on the recall of Mayor Paul Donahue, who represents District 1, has been set for July 26; and the petition to recall Castle Rock District 2 Councilmember Mark Heath was dropped by petitioners.
To withdraw her protest, Valentine submitted a letter written by her attorney, Scott Gessler, who specializes in elections. The letter raised questions of apparent forged signatures on the petition, many of which were already thrown out by Castle Rock Town Clerk Sally Misare during the verification process because information did not match voting records.
“The possibility of fraud is real, and it warrants a criminal investigation,” the letter from Gessler reads. Gessler is the former secretary of state of Colorado, having served from 2011-15.
On May 16, Misare validated 273 of the 300 signatures on Valentine’s recall petition — five more than the 268 needed.
Validation of signatures includes matching the name on the petition to a registered voter; matching the address provided to that voter registration; and in the case of the recall petitions, verifying that registered voter lives in the district of the councilmember in question.
Castle Rock does not do signature verification and state statute does not currently allow or have a process for signature verification on petitions. If the information is correct, then the signature is validated. But signatures are not compared for verification. Because of this, Valentine and Gessler brought a small sampling of signatures to the Douglas County Clerk and Recorder’s office, where an informal comparison of signatures was conducted.
Gessler forwarded the information discovered through the informal comparison to the district attorney’s office. The district attorney's office confirmed June 7 that they did receive the information and are looking into it.
In light of the investigation surrounding her recall petition, Valentine said she will be bringing up the need for signature verification at a future council meeting.
Klotz believes that because of issues with fraudulent signatures at the state level, more and more elected officials will be pushing for signature verification on petitions.
“I fully expect after the fiasco we’ve just witnessed in the Senate race that we will soon have signature verification,” Klotz said. “Signature verification should be part of any petition process.”
Klotz was referring to the allegedly forged signatures on the petition to place Jon Keyser and Jim Smallwood on the ballot for the Colorado Senate race.
Valentine was elected in 2011 and her second term expires in 2018. She will continue to serve in office while the recall process takes place.
Town council is scheduled to set Valentine’s recall election as part of the November general election during its regular June 14 meeting.