In its defense: Aspen plans to recoup money from legal foe
ASPEN -City Attorney John Worcester said Tuesday he plans to file a motion seeking to collect attorneys fees from Aspen resident Marilyn Marks, who sued the local government last fall in an attempt to force it to release ballot images from the May election.
Worcester said he has until Thursday to file the motion, which comes two weeks after Marks lost her case in the 9th Judicial District Court.
Judge James Boyd dismissed the case on March 11, citing the state constitution, which requires the city clerk to keep ballots secret.
Marks filed the suit in October against City Clerk Kathryn Koch, attempting to force Koch into releasing ballot images.
Shortly after the May 5 election, Marks filed a Colorado Open Records Act request for 2,544 digital ballot images cast by Aspen voters so the images can be checked against how the scanning machines interpreted them as part of an independent review to be conducted by an outside group.
That request was denied by the city, which prompted Marks to file the lawsuit.
The city filed a motion to dismiss Marks’ lawsuit, arguing several points, including that people have a right to a secret ballot under the city’s home rule charter.
Marks said she plans to appeal the decision.
In the meantime, city officials are calculating how many hours they’ve spent defending the case and what the prevailing rate of attorneys is in town to get an estimate of what should be reimbursed to the city.
“We don’t know the dollar amount yet,” Worcester said.
Collecting attorneys fees is separate from the pending case in the court of appeals, he added.
City officials have spent hundreds of hours on the case. Marks said she has spent close to $70,000 in legal fees, which includes her Denver-based attorney, Robert McGuire.
It’s likely that the city’s motion will ask for tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees.
Marks ran for mayor in May against three candidates, including incumbent Mick Ireland. The election marked the debut of the city’s voter-approved instant runoff voting, which pitted Marks against Ireland. Ireland prevailed with 1,301 votes, or 53.6 percent. Marks received 1,124 votes, or 46.4 percent.
Marks is an opponent of instant runoff voting, which ranks candidates in order of preference. She is involved in an effort to review the system and make reforms to the local election process.
The city had argued that Marks’ lawsuit was an attempt to gather information to continue her ongoing campaign of disparaging the local government for the manner in which it conducted the May election and to question the legitimacy of the mayor’s election to office.
Marks has said in the past that she has no interest in contesting the results of the election and is only concerned with election reform.
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