Effort underway to recall the entire city council and mayor of a Southern Colorado city
WALSENBURG, Colo. (KRDO) -- An effort is underway in Walsenburg to recall the city's council members and mayor.
According to the Walsenburg City Clerk, seven petitions were submitted Tuesday for review. Those petitions are working to trigger a recall election for all six council members and the city's mayor.
According to the City of Walsenburg's website, the six council members are Greg Daniels, Veronica Maes, Nick Vigil, Carmen Lara, Ricky Jennings, and Don Martinez. The mayor is Charles Bryant.
13 Investigates learned the language for each petition was approved by the city attorney.
The city clerk said petitioners have 60 days to acquire the appropriate amount of signatures on each petition to trigger a recall election.
While every city council member has a petition to recall them, the reasoning behind each petition varies.
According to state law, the number of signatures on each petition must exceed 25% of the entire vote cast for all the candidates for that particular office at the last preceding regular election held in the City of Walsenburg.
Bryant provided 13 Investigates with the following statement:
Good afternoon Mr. Beedie, it is my understanding that a group of concerned citizens has been meeting over the last few months concerning a recall effort. I cannot speak to the validity of the group’s claims regarding why I might be recalled as I have not been provided with any sort of formal declaration.
I will say though that I am proud of our citizens for utilizing their Constitutional rights, rather than remaining in their slumber. Ironically enough, I actually implored our citizens to exercise their recall abilities during a council meeting on June 7th of this year. I reaffirmed my stance on this issue during a council meeting on October 18th. I take this pro-recall stance in response to what I view as a longstanding culture of corruption within the City of Walsenburg.
The view that I have (and that is shared by many) is that the City of Walsenburg needs a hard reset. I feel that myself and Mayor Pro-Tem Jennings have been the only elected officials that have made an honest effort to reform the wayward nature of Walsenburg City Government. Our efforts to advance a code of ethics/conduct was struck down by our fellow board members after they had initially been in favor of it. Efforts to increase transparency within our organization have been met with great resistance from these same board members. City administration simply ignores CORA requests submitted by citizens. Our efforts to prevent our fellow board members from engaging in business with the very city that they serve have been dismissed/ignored by these same wayward elected officials.
Currently two board members have active contracts with the city which is a clear conflict of interest given their lack of recusal when issues associated with these business arrangements are brought before the board. Our efforts to keep these board members from working outside of their statutorily defined responsibilities has been blatantly ignored. To say that they have a distorted sense of power is an understatement.
A review of council meeting videos, minutes and local press coverage from the Huerfano World Journal document much of this dysfunction. While a scorched earth style recall like the one being suggested may seem drastic in the short term, I feel that it will only make Walsenburg stronger by empowering it’s citizens. Hopefully future municipal officials will come to the table that have a true desire to advance the community rather than themselves. Knowing that the public will not sit idly by as they have done for decades will be a strong motivating factor for future leaders.
Please let me know if I can provide any further information to help the public understand what the situation is here in Walsenburg. The citizens need to fight for their community before there is nothing left to fight for….
Mayor Charles R. Bryant
13 Investigates did not independently confirm each of the claims within Mayor Bryant's statement.
Veronica Maes, one of the council members at risk of being recalled, calls the efforts "irresponsible and reckless."
Maes questions how the city will function if all seven elected members are removed from office following recall elections. She points out that four seats, including the Mayor's, are up for a vote in November.
The cost of seven or any recall election is something Maes also worries about. The Walsenburg council members said the city already has difficulty funding staff and the small city's infrastructure.
“We've had plenty of citizens and community members speak that they wish they wouldn't have voted for the council member," Tyler Cunningham with Positive Future for Walsenburg, the group organizing the seven recall efforts, told 13 Investigates.
“All of Walsenburg need to choose who they want to recall It is not our opinions," Ann Caffey, another recall organizer, said Tuesday. "We want to do this as broadly as possible. So it's not about personalities or favoritism or any of that.”
Caffey says these petitions are solely about the issues. Each provides different reasonings for a recall vote for each individual elected official. Organizers tell 13 Investigates that the petitions boil down to one key issue -- water.
“We’re having issues with water within Walsenburg and people being on restriction," Cunningham said. "It tends to be about billing, billing from the city has been consistently inconsistent, despite multiple instances of the council speaking about it in meetings, bringing it up, and planning for it to be fixed.”