Adams County judge sides with Westminster recall group

City clerk has until April 28 to issue new decision on recall petitions for four members of Westminster City Council

Liam Adams
Posted 4/17/21

An Adams County district court judge ruled in favor of the Westminster recall group, the Westminster Water Warriors, in its lawsuit against the city and ordered Westminster City Clerk Michelle Parker …

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Adams County judge sides with Westminster recall group

City clerk has until April 28 to issue new decision on recall petitions for four members of Westminster City Council

Posted

An Adams County district court judge ruled in favor of the Westminster recall group, the Westminster Water Warriors, in its lawsuit against the city and ordered Westminster City Clerk Michelle Parker to re-review petitions she previously rejected.

The decision follows a contentious, months-long effort to recall Mayor Herb Atchison, Mayor Pro Tem Anita Seitz and City Councilors Kathryn Skulley and Jon Voelz for supporting water rate increases. The Water Warriors said in an email it believes the city clerk’s forthcoming review will yield a certification of petitions and trigger a recall election, though the city’s regular election is months away.  

“The wait is over – We won this battle!!!!!” said the Water Warriors, whose attorney in the case was former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Judge Kyle Seedorf sided with the Water Warriors’ argument that Parker used overly stringent methods to disqualify 80 petition sections.  The Water Warriors, the city and Seedorf agreed that many petitions didn’t comply with city code, but “the extent of noncompliance with state or municipal law is minimal,” Seedorf wrote in his April 16 order.

The main dispute was about coversheets on the petitions that circulators removed when they were collecting signatures. In 66 petition sections, there was evidence circulators removed the cover sheets, or unstapled them from the rest of the packet. Circulators later re-stapled the cover sheets for those petitions. Parker disqualified fourteen other petition sections that were submitted without the cover sheet on the front that were inserted elsewhere in the petition packet submission, Seedorf’s order said.

The city argued the cover page is a safeguard against circulators misleading signatories to believe that a recall election would immediately reduce water rates. However, Seedorf said that argument had “no credible evidence.”

The Water Warriors submitted its first batch of petitions on October 30, 2020. After receiving a certificate of insufficiency, the group filed an amended submission with cured signatures, but that was unsuccessful, partly due to the cover sheet issue.

In response to Seedorf’s ruling, the city said it will comply with the judge’s order, but highlighted Seedorf’s comment that, “there is no evidence from the hearing indicating Ms. Parker neglected her duty for objectivity.”

When Parker disqualified the 80 petition sections, the Water Warriors said it was an example of the city “unconstitutionally” hindering and violating residents’ right to recall, according to the group’s suit.

The city contests that claim and said Parker was simply following city guidelines. In a written statement, City Manager Don Tripp said, “I am especially heartened to see the court note the City Clerk executed her duties without bias or neglect. Petitions were reviewed based on the information provided and in accordance with State statutes and Westminster Municipal Code. The same level of integrity and professionalism will be applied as additional sections are reviewed.”

Per the city’s last count, in order to trigger recall elections, the Water Warriors still needed 282 signatures for Atchison, 757 signatures for Seitz, 61 signatures for Skulley and 635 signatures for Voelz.

With the petition sections the city will now consider, city spokesman Ryan Hegreness said the city anticipates those gaps tightening, but that the city won’t speculate on whether there are enough signatures to trigger recall elections.

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