Ireland foes deny ads before judge
One mailing pictured a baby wearing a stereo headphone nearly as large as its head. The cover was adorned with two phrases: “Meet the `new boss’ ” across the top, “Same as the `old boss’ ” across the bottom. Inside it had quotes from Ireland and his supporters and urged voters to vote for the recall. It was printed on glossy paper and sent to voters throughout the county.
The other mailing was an absentee ballot application form sent out to select voters. The mailing followed a telephone survey meant to identify people who were likely to vote in favor of the recall.
The recall committee’s registered agent, real estate broker Joshua Saslove, denied any knowledge of the mailings, and that denial is noted in the complaint.
But the complaint also points to several other facts: Both mailings contained the statements “paid for by the committee to re-call Mick Ireland;” it would have cost “thousands of dollars to design, produce and mail them,” according to the complaint; and neither the contributions necessary to pay for the mailings nor the expenditure summary identifying who designed and printed them were ever reported.
The complaint also maintains that the recall committee violated Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act by accepting at least $1,000 in contributions from people who were unaware that the money was being donated in their names.
The August 3 edition of The Aspen Times reported that two people, Beth O’Donnell and her son, Bill O’Donnell, identified by Saslove as $500 donors to the recall effort, didn’t know about the donations and the recall campaign.
When asked about his opposition to the two-term Pitkin County commissioner, Billy O’Donnell answered by asking “Mick who?” Beth O’Donnell suggested that the contributions were probably made in their names by her ex-husband, William O’Donnell.
In his written answer to the complaint, recall committee attorney Westfall concedes that William O’Donnell wrote a check to the recall campaign for $2,000. Saslove then “advised Mr. O’Donnell that under the Pitkin County Home Rule Charter, contributions were limited to $500 per person. Mr. O’Donnell informed Mr. Saslove that the $2,000 contribution consisted of $500 each from his wife and two children,” the written answer explains.
Westfall said that Saslove and the committee reported the contribution in a way that is consistent with the information provided by William O’Donnell. Westfall also insisted that the committee was not aware of the mailings and did not authorize or pay for them.
“I’m sort of at a loss about the way this is proceeding in the manner it is – it’s baffling as to why this is going before an administrative law judge,” said Karin Gustafson, the Dietsch’s attorney.
Gustafson, who works for the public interest law firm Public Counsel of the Rockies, said she expected a much different response to the complaint.
Gustafson said she has heard little from either Saslove or attorney Westfall. She said she thought someone would call and say there was a mistake or claim that the mailings were sent out without the committee’s knowledge. She has said frequently over the last several months that she believes the problems she and the Dietsches have with the recall committee’s campaign reports could be easily corrected with a written amendment.
But if that’s not happening, she and her clients believe the issue is important enough to take to the judge. “The Fair Campaign Practices Act has the overwhelming support of the Colorado electorate. If no one enforces it, it won’t be complied with,” Gustafson said.
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