About Westminster Water’s courtroom win

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 4/26/21

I would have given you heavy odds against the Westminster Water Warriors winning their court battle over the many signatures disqualified on the recall petitions by the city clerk. As I speculated in …

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About Westminster Water’s courtroom win

Posted

I would have given you heavy odds against the Westminster Water Warriors winning their court battle over the many signatures disqualified on the recall petitions by the city clerk.

As I speculated in a column some months ago, I didn't think a judge would get down in the weeds to really decide if Westminster City Clerk Michelle Parker had erred in her methodical approach to throwing out signatures and whole pages of petitions. I was wrong and glad of it.

Congratulations to Debbie Teter and the Westminster Water Warriors on this decision. At the time of writing this column, the whole city council has not discussed or decided if the city will appeal the court decision or go forward with the recall election. The latter option would have the city clerk determine if any of the four named members of the lawsuit (Atchison, Seitz, Skulley and Voelz) have sufficient valid signatures to place their names on a recall election ballot. I would not be surprised if the four named members would decide to appeal the case. Which brings up the question do they have a conflict of interest in voting on any proposed appeal?

Court mandates a review of petitions and signatures

This decision throws a new wrinkle into the mix not only in the belabored attempt to recall the four elected officials over excessive water rates, but it puts a twist in the upcoming November 2 election for Mayor and three City Council seats. Per Judge Kyle Seedorf's decision, the City Clerk is ordered to retrieve the original petitions that were retained by the Court as soon as possible, but no later than April 21. She has seven days from the date the city's legal counsel retrieves the documents from the Court, but no later than April 28 to complete the review and file her updated certificate on the petitions to City Council.

Three incumbent candidates under the gun

The Water Warriors won on the substantial compliance test of the law and the Court ordered the city to review all rejected petitions. The crux of the judge's decision centers on “the Defendant (City) erred in rejecting petition sections based on the removal of the cover sheet or for containing the cover sheet as an addition inserted page.”

The City Clerk's Office now will review all petitions and determine on the number of valid signatures. Based on the original number of signatures submitted on each of the four elected officials, it likely will trigger a recall election involving Skulley and Atchison. Potentially, there could be sufficient signatures to include both Voelz and Seitz as well.

Determining a special election date

When might a special election be held? With the Judge's mandate of the April 28 deadline for the city clerk to submit her findings, we have a calendar starting point. The City Charter language of not holding the recall election sooner than 45 days nor later than 60 days after her certification pins down the timeline.

Those constraints create a two-week window between June 11 and June 26 in which to hold the recall election. The City Charter specifies at the election will be held on a Tuesday which narrows the election date to either June 15th or June 22nd.

The other timeline to be aware of pertains to City Charter language which mandates that if a special election is to be scheduled within 90 days of a regular city election, the special election issue(s) will be merged into the regular election. The city's regular election is set for Tuesday, November 2nd. Counting back 90 days from the election, pegs the cutoff for a special election on August 4th. So, a recall election set in the middle of June is workable assuming sufficient valid signatures and would not be merged with the November date.

Regardless of whether or not there is a separate recall election, the die has been cast and puts a stain or dark cloud on Atchison, Seitz, Skulley and Voelz. The judge's ruling vindicated the Westminster Water Warriors' intent and efforts. Certainly, those citizens who signed the petitions ( 6,700 signatures) will have the opportunity to express their disdain in November if nothing else.

Recall could muddle November candidate choices

With a June special election, the outcome could muddle the list of candidates on the November ballot. If Skulley and/or Voelz are recalled, they would not be eligible to run for city council seats in November. DeMott who is up for re-election opposed raising the water rates and is not involved in the recall. If Seitz is recalled as a council member, her eligibility to run for Mayor is negated. With Atchison out of the picture after November 2 due to term limits, we know there will be a new Mayor who may or may not be so chummy with Don Tripp. There are several scenarios where the “balance of power” could either switch to a more conservative side or a less “inclusive” group voting one way all of the time. Some of the scenarios are not supportive of Mr. Tripp remaining as City Manager. This truly is a continuing saga.

Hope that jury's decision puts America on the right path

The jury's three-count decision in the George Floyd murder trial against former Minneapolis veteran police officer Derek Chauvin has a true, resounding ring to it throughout America. It sends a message that police officers are not above the law. They stand the same scrutiny that the rest of us do when breaking the law.

And with that message, there is hope for better times between minorities and law enforcement. There is a high percentage of good, honest, non-racial members of the law enforcement community throughout America, but we must deal with the “bad apples.” Law enforcement personnel have to stand up and not look the other way when their fellow officers are not following procedures.

Yes, there are “bad apples”, but they aren't exclusive within law enforcement. We each need to look in the mirror and judge ourselves on how we view and treat people of color. America needs to change its attitude and behavior. The time is now and George Floyd's horrific death is the wind that is sweeping across our country. It is demanding change and equal treatment for all people regardless of their occupation, profession or station in life. Who will lead us out of the dark into the light?

AMERICAN JUNIOR GOLF ASSOCIATION TOURNEY ANNOUNCED IN WESTMINSTER

The AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior golf tournament attracts players throughout Colorado and the region. Since 2015, it has provided $1.4 million to the local economy. The American Junior Golf Association and the City of Westminster invite you to help support junior golf by playing in the Junior-Am Fundraising Tournament on Monday, June 14th or by volunteering June 13-17 at the Walnut Creek Preserve Golf Course. You will be amazed at the talent level of these junior golfers. For additional information, you can contact Dwight Clasby at dclasby15@gmail.com or by phone at (214) 587 4111.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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