DA: No probe into Basalt election without additional evidence
The Eagle County District Attorney said last week that his office doesn’t have information to warrant starting an investigation into the April 5 Basalt election, but a critic of that process will be given the opportunity to present additional evidence.
District Attorney Bruce Brown said he talked with Basalt resident Mary Kenyon about her allegations of a flawed election process and possible illegal activity. He said he determined that only one assertion seemed to “possibly indicate district attorney jurisdiction.”
“The nature of that allegation was fraud,” Brown told The Aspen Times in an email. The other allegations involved civil rather than criminal issues, he said.
“We don’t weigh in on the competency of the election process or the outcome,” Brown said.
District attorney contacted April 18
Kenyon wrote a letter to the DA’s Office April 18 with several complaints about Basalt’s election, the town’s first mail-only ballot election.
Her letter started: “I am requesting a formal investigation into the April 5 election in the town of Basalt for the following reasons:
1. Failure of the election clerk to make a reasonable, good-faith effort to comply with election requirements to prevent fraud and corruption in the election.
2. Failure of the election clerk to make a reasonable, good-faith effort to comply with election requirements and preventing ineligible electors from voting.
3. The election clerk’s systemic disregard of election law requirements.
4. Prevailing candidate’s illegal and/or unethical behavior.
5. The overall intent to mislead the electorate.”
On a fact-finding mission
Kenyon said Saturday she understands after talking to Brown that most of her points involve civil matters. However, she intends to provide more information to Brown’s office to support her allegations of illegal activity by Mayor Jacque Whitsitt. She is attempting to get statements from parties to support specific claims.
“That’s what I’m tasked with getting,” she said.
She said she doesn’t have a goal for when she submits additional information to the DA. She is pursuing election issues only when it doesn’t interfere with her career as owner of a marketing company.
She said she also plans to file a civil complaint with Eagle County District Court to pursue rulings on her allegations that the election wasn’t properly operated. She said she will file that complaint herself and pursue it in court. She practiced law in Michigan, though she’s not a practicing attorney in Colorado.
“I’m not a stranger to courtrooms,” she said.
Kenyon said she remains on an “ongoing fact-finding attempt” that includes a Colorado Open Records request for text messages between Basalt Town Clerk Pam Schilling and Whitsitt between March 14, when ballots were mailed to voters, and April 12, a week after the election.
Kenyon said she wants to learn “what Pam and the mayor were talking about during the election.”
Her open-records request also sought emails. Kenyon said she has received emails, which she is assessing, but she is still waiting for copies of text messages.
Seeks election reform
Kenyon said she is pursuing the civil complaint and action by the DA’s Office on her own.
“I’m working alone but supported by other people,” she said.
The timing of a civil court complaint also depends on her fact-finding mission, she said.
Schilling has defended the integrity of the election in an email response to questions from Kenyon. Whitsitt previously said she didn’t do anything wrong during the campaign and that she didn’t feel it necessary to dignify Kenyon’s allegations with responses.
Kenyon earlier sent the complaints about the process to the Colorado Secretary of State’s elections branch, but officials there said they don’t have jurisdiction over a municipal election.
Kenyon has acknowledged that she supported candidate Rick Stevens in the mayoral race. He lost by a razor-thin margin to Whitsitt. When asked if pursuing criminal charges against Whitsitt and Schilling was an act of vengeance, Kenyon said, “Not at all.”
She said her efforts are intended to improve Basalt’s election procedures by the next election.
“Why would I ever vote in this town again knowing that the process was flawed?” she asked.
She acknowledged that the campaign was hard-fought and contentious and that Basalt needs to move forward. If a judge finds the election process was flawed and it is fixed, that will help Basalt move forward.
While some people have expressed support for her efforts, Kenyon said, she also felt that some people at a recent civic function in Basalt treated her like “the enemy.”
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The property tax overcharge refunds are in the hands of Basalt residents. A new civic organization is cranking up its campaign to have recipients contribute some or all of their refunds to the Basalt Gives effort to benefit midvalley-serving nonprofits.