I’m not going anywhere
Ward Hauenstein, Aspen election commissioner, recently criticized my election reform efforts. While it is tempting rebut his statements with detailed facts, perhaps it is more illuminating to look at the context.
Hauenstein and Bob Leatherman, our two independent commissioners, are struggling to fill impossibly demanding roles with inadequate resources. The context in which they serve helps understand their frustrations. The workload facing them is overwhelming.
Council handpicked the commissioners after retroactively dismissing their predecessors on spurious allegations when they suggested that complaints merited investigation. The outrageous story of their dismissal is yet untold. A review of the sordid facts of their termination demonstrates an obvious government cover-up, which citizens will not want to hear. They had discussed a possible election audit and engaging external legal expertise. Those actions would not be tolerated by the council, three of whom were seated in the terrifically flawed election.
I witnessed Ward’s interview with council for his appointment. Mick asked whether Ward wanted outside legal help if appointed, and his opinion of the “ethics and behavior” of the prior commissioners, with clear implications of what the answers had to be. I anticipated a loyalty oath next.
The commissioners’ frustration is understandable. Ward blames me for the commissioners’ failure to meet to conduct “independent” investigations because the chair and city attorneys are conflicted and chose not to meet during the DA’s review. They claim that the city attorneys are not the commission’s attorneys, but bizarrely claim that they cannot meet without them. Ward acknowledges that the clerk is conflicted, but believes she should chair the meetings to evaluate complaints about the election she ran! Star chamber hearings?
With hundreds of pages of complex legally oriented complaints awaiting them, they say, “we have enough lawyers,” while claiming to have no lawyers advising them.
As Ward alleges, I have been relentless on reform efforts, but in vain. He calls my insistence “undemocratic,” although most reforms merely demand compliance with long established law.
Even the district attorney failed to dent the government’s concrete barriers. Despite claims of a “thorough” investigation, they failed to interview any city officials, third-party witnesses or me. Despite the serious unanswered evidence of legal violations in the DA’s report, the city falsely claims “exoneration.”
Some citizens have given up on the commission as a whitewash squad, but I continue to request that they employ expert counsel to help address the mounting issues. Ward denies the issues are mounting, but only because he declined to accept any additional filings after May 10. His statement speaks to the frustrating, compromised positions they hold. “Don’t show me any information,” becomes “there is nothing to see.” One commissioner insisted that the complaints could be heard but no fault should be found. Another said that the city should not be admonished for collecting ballot data traceable to the voter, but admonishes the whistle blowers instead.
If you’re in doubt, merely listen to a few minutes of recordings of the commission meetings. I strongly recommend that Aspen’s future elections be conducted by Pitkin County, just as Pitkin is currently conducting the Nov. 2 city special election.
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.