Council considers hearing officer for recall

Clerk asks for help as petition review deadline nears

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/16/20

The timing of a busy general election and the due date for a petitions seeking to recall Mayor Herb Atchison and three City Councilors has City Clerk Michelle Parker asking for help. “The deadline …

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Council considers hearing officer for recall

Clerk asks for help as petition review deadline nears

Posted

The timing of a busy general election and the due date for a petitions seeking to recall Mayor Herb Atchison and three City Councilors has City Clerk Michelle Parker asking for help.

“The deadline to turn these in is Nov. 2, the day before a major election,” Parker told City Councilors during their Oct. 5 study session. “The City Clerk’s office, overlapping with that timeline, will already be very busy, assisting voters and helping to redirect them. It’s just an incredibly busy day for us.”

Councilors discussed hiring private City Clerk specialist Karen Golden to act as Administrative Protest Hearing Officer in case petitions seeking to recall the councilors are protested by residents. Protests could be filed by any registered Westminster voter, including the City Councilors themselves.

Parker said having Golden to handle potential protests would free her staff to handle the recall petitions themselves while taking care of their other tasks.

“We can’t shut down our other operations for that 15 day period,” Parker said. “We will continue to do all of our duties, as well as verifying signatures.”

After some initial hesitation from Councilor David DeMott, councilors said they were fine with spending no more than $7,500 for the help. They were scheduled to vote on a resolution to the matter at their Oct. 12 meeting.

Residents Jessica True, Gary Shea and Deb Teter filed four separate petitions aimed at unseating Atchison and City Councilors Anita Seitz, Kathryn Skulley and Jon Voelz. The group is scheduling collection events around the city, at local grocery stores, parks and members’ homes. They are updating the schedule and locations at https://www.facebook.com/westminsterwater on Facebook.

Parker said the recall group has until the close of business Nov. 2 to file the necessary signatures. Parker said her office has 15 days to review the signatures and verify that they are from registered Westminster voters once they have been submitted, and recall group has 15 days after that to “cure“ the petition. The clerk then has another five days to review the petition signatures and declare the petition sufficient or not.

The group needs to collect 5,009 signatures to recall Atchison and  6,098 signatures apiece to recall the three City Councilors.

“That is going to be north of 23,000 signatures to verify over a 15 day period, which includes the weekends,” Parker said. “We verify petitions every two years, that we have a council and mayoral election. So we have quite a bit of experience in terms of how long it takes to verify each signature as well as the potential other steps we need to insure you exhaust all potential search methods.”

According to the Colorado law, registered voters can challenge the validity of each petition. A hearing officer — either the City Clerk or another person designated by the City Council — must review the petitions if they are challenged.

Parker said hiring an outside contractor to handle those protest hearing also assures that the hearings will be fair

“If there is a hearing where I am the hearing office, I will essentially be ruling on something I have already ruled,” she said. “If there is some kind of a protest about how I’ve ruled, that puts me as the judge of my own decision, essentially. So for that reason, we think it’s a good practice.”

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