Garfield County candidates to file complaints
December 1, 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Two Democrats who unsuccessfully ran for two Garfield County commissioner seats are likely to let a Denver-based ethics group take the lead in filing a complaint over negative mailers sent in this year’s election.
Mike Sawyer, a Glenwood Springs attorney, said it is the preference of the two Democrats to let Colorado Ethics Watch file a possible complaint over reports that outside groups may have failed to file required campaign finance reports with the Colorado Secretary of State for the mailers they sent out.
“They are well educated on these issues and would be best positioned to take that forward,” said Sawyer, who was a volunteer for Democrat Stephen Bershenyi’s campaign and has been in contact with Democratic candidate Steve Carter. “Colorado Ethics Watch has told us that they want to review this in more detail, and that they will get back with us.”
Richard Coolidge, a spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, said a candidate has 180 days after Nov. 4 election to file a complaint with the state.
Luis Toro, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, said if the group files any complaint based on campaign activity in Garfield County it would do so on its own behalf. The group would also have to make an evaluation if a violation has occurred, which won’t happen until after Dec. 4, Toro said.
That is the deadline to file campaign finance reports for spending and fundraising activities from Oct. 23 to Nov. 30, state records show.
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If Colorado Ethics Watch decides not to file a complaint, the two Democrats will reconsider whether they want to “invest the energy” in submitting their own complaint to state officials, Sawyer said.
On Wednesday, Carter said Sawyer’s statement about letting Colorado Ethics take a lead in filing a possible complaint is an approach he supports. Sawyer said he wanted to stress that Bershenyi and Carter campaigns’ concerns in any possible complaint are focused exclusively on the outside groups who spent money on this year’s two Garfield County commissioner races.
Bershenyi, a blacksmith/artist from Glenwood Springs, lost to Republican John Martin, who won a fourth term as commissioner, by 365 votes. Carter, a Rifle attorney and former Garfield County judge, fell to Mike Samson, Rifle High School’s dean of students, by 685 votes.
The race for the two commission seats sparked lots of outside interest as Garfield County continues to be a battleground for energy development.
Outside groups poured more than $55,000 into both sides of the race without the candidates’ approval, available state records show. Most of that money went to support Martin and Samson. A Montana-based grassroots and environmental organization spent about $13,000 to sup port Bershenyi and Carter.
One of the most surprising attacks in this year’s election came from the Western Slope Independent, a group that maintains a blog on the Internet and paid for a mailer that looked like a newspaper and had articles attacking Bershenyi and Carter. It was sent out just days before the Nov. 4 election.