13 Investigates: Colorado Springs Mayoral Candidate Sallie Clark’s large campaign donations
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A newly released television campaign commercial implies that Colorado Springs Mayoral candidate Sallie Clark is under the influence of wealthy "land speculators" in the city who are funding her campaign.
"Well, they're not truthful. You know, I think that sometimes people see things on TV, and they just believe them," Clark told 13 Investigates.
Clark's biggest donor has been The O'Neil Group, which has invested in nine defense companies, owns several commercial real estate buildings, and approximately 2,000 acres of developable land in El Paso County.
The group has contributed $100,000 to Clark's campaign, which makes up about one-third of her total donations.
“After extensive research, we provided support to several candidates who are committed to leading our dynamic city in a transparent manner. We are passionate about creating good jobs, an attractive community, and supporting those with similar values.”The O'Neil Group
Central Bancorp owner Ron Johnson is Clark's second-largest donor. Johnson has funded $60,000 of her campaign. City campaign finance records show that La Plata Communities also gave Clark $10,000.
"I have taken no political action committee money. I'm not endorsed by the Housing and Building Association. And so, my individual contributions really speak for themselves. I have over 350 donors."Colorado Springs Mayoral Candidate Sallie Clark
New City Water Law
The ongoing water crisis across the west has impacted the city's growth potential, and the Amara, a 3,000-acre piece of land, requested to be annexed by La Plata Communities in 2022. The Colorado Springs City Council passed a controversial water ordinance that limits large-scale communities from being built in the city unless it has a 128% surplus of water.
The proposed housing development near Fort Carson would have added up to another 10,000 homes to the city. That ordinance effectively blocked Clark's third highest campaign donor, La Plata Communities, from annexing into the city.
Four city council members voted against the ordinance in February raising concerns about its impact on affordable housing. Current data show that only 18% of Colorado Springs taxpayers can afford a home at a median household income of $71,957, a dramatic drop from September 2019 when 74% of residents had enough money to pay for a mortgage.
Clark isn't the only Colorado Springs Mayoral candidate at the center of attack ads on television ahead of the upcoming election.
Another TV commercial suggests that City Councilman Wayne Williams' largest donor, the most powerful developer in Colorado Springs, benefits from the new city water ordinance.
Million Dollar Race
13 Investigates exposed ties between Norwood Development Group and the mayoral race earlier this week. Norwood's owner, David Jenkins emailed a plan, to political allies and business partners outlining a plan to confidentially pump $1 million into Williams' run for mayor. Jenkins owns 85% of the future developable land in Colorado Springs, including 18,000 acres of Banning Lewis Ranch housing development on the east side of the city. Norwood is not required to follow the new water rule like new developers who propose annexing land for housing do because Norwood's properties were annexed in the late 1980s.
During our interview, Williams' mentioned Clark's second-largest donor Ron Johnson. Williams said Johnson, a wealthy banker, told him in a private meeting that he would spend $1,000,000 against Williams if he voted to pass the controversial water ordinance preventing new large home developments from being annexed into the city.
Williams told us Johnson owns Kane Ranch, a property for housing development in the City of Fountain. The mayoral candidate also suggested Johnson may eventually want to annex Kane Ranch into the city at some point.
Johnson told 13 Investigates that his frustration about the water law wasn't personal, adding that he only owns 6% of the Kane Ranch home development property. The banker said the ordinance was "rushed, lacked stakeholder input, and clearly established a monopoly for Norwood Development Group."
Clark said she "really supports" the water ordinance passed by the council. She said she supports further study of the water supply issues by a task force like Williams, who voted in favor of this type of task force in February.
Williams and Clark are running against 10 other candidates. Ballots for the upcoming April 4 city election were sent out to voters on Friday.
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