Glenwood agency denied funds over Amendment 54 dispute | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood agency denied funds over Amendment 54 dispute

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Differing opinions about a contested state constitutional amendment that prohibits political contributions from persons associated with entities earning government contracts could leave one local agency out of Garfield County’s funding loop.

Mountain Valley Developmental Services was denied a $75,000 Garfield County Human Services 2010 grant request until it agrees to a contract amendment with the county stating the agency will abide by the provisions of Amendment 54.

The Glenwood Springs-based agency provides a variety of independent-living services for people with developmental disabilities in Garfield County.

Amendment 54, approved by Colorado voters last fall, prohibits campaign contributions from any entity, or its representatives, that wins no-bid or single-source government contracts totaling $100,000 or more. It also prohibits immediate family members of holders of a no-bid contract from contributing to any political campaign or candidate who may have influence over the contract.

However, the amendment is being challenged in Denver District Court, as too broad and unconstitutional. It has not been put into law, pending a court ruling.

Still, Garfield County has asked Mountain Valley and the other human service agencies that receive county funding to amend their service contracts with new language related to Amendment 54.

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“Obviously, we are distressed that Mountain Valley, which has historically been one of the core agencies in the county, is being recommended for no funding,” MVDS Executive Director Bruce Christensen said in an appeal to Garfield County commissioners at their Aug. 17 meeting.

“The recommendation for the elimination of this funding is based on misinformation and a misunderstanding,” he said.

Mountain Valley has been in negotiations with the county attorney’s office regarding the contract language. Christensen said it’s his board’s position that the provisions of Amendment 54 are unconstitutional.

“I would also like to point out that we work with many different governments, and Garfield County is the only one that has requested an amendment to the contract related to Amendment 54,” Christensen told the commissioners.

Mountain Valley has also not used this year’s human services allocation because of the contract issue. The rejection for next year’s funding comes at a time when the state has also made deep cuts in funding for the agency to the tune of about $300,000, Christensen said.

“I am extremely distressed by this action,” he said. “It is going to cause harm to the citizens of Garfield County, and it’s something we’re going to need to discuss and fix.”

Mountain Valley will make a formal case to the county commissioners regarding the contract on Sept. 8. Depending on the outcome, it’s possible the human services funding could be reinstated.

“All of the other agencies have been able to comply [with the contract request],” County Commission Chairman John Martin said at the Aug. 17 meeting. “We’re just trying to be fair to everyone.”

jstroud@postindependent.com