Johnson stands by e-mails; Ittner wants website down | AspenTimes.com

Johnson stands by e-mails; Ittner wants website down

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The county commissioner race between Rob Ittner and Jack Johnson is heating up, with Johnson calling on Ittner to denounce a website targeting the former councilman.

ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioner candidate Jack Johnson said Wednesday he did nothing wrong in response to accusations by his detractors that he violated Colorado’s open-meetings laws.

And, he called on his opponent, Rob Ittner, to publicly denounce the tactics of Ittner’s supporters – namely City Hall critics Marilyn Marks and Elizabeth Milias – in what has become a nastier-than-usual campaign for county office.

Ittner had little to say about the anti-Johnson website, http://www.hittheroadjackj.com, advocating instead an “issued-based, positive campaign.”

The website was launched by Red Ant blogger Milias; Ittner said he requested that she take it down. “I strongly disapprove of the website that has attacked Jack’s character,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Meanwhile, Marks sent out an e-mail this week accusing Johnson of circumventing Colorado’s open-meetings law in 2007, while he was an Aspen city councilman, by sending separate e-mails to his fellow council members to gauge their support for an emergency historic preservation ordinance.

Copying all three council members who received the e-mail at once would have constituted a council quorum and violated the law, according to City Attorney John Worcester. The individual communications, however, did not.

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“Technically, it’s not a violation,” he said.

Marks, in her e-mail, accused Johnson of a “complete disregard for the Sunshine Laws” – the body of state law that addresses open records and meetings. But Johnson said he is fully aware of the laws – hence the separate e-mails.

“I’m not going to pretend I should be following the laws of Marilyn and Elizabeth or the laws of other states. I should be following the laws of Colorado,” he said.

The 2007 e-mail was about the city’s Ordinance 30, adopted quickly as an emergency measure to prevent the demolition of post-World War II structures. “I would remind everyone that if we don’t have four votes to pass this as an emergency ordinance then we ought not to bring it up at all as it will cause the very thing we are trying to prevent,” Johnson wrote.

The ordinance was ultimately replaced by Ordinance 48, which gives the city time to negotiate with a landowner before a building is demolished.

Marks argues that Johnson’s actions deserve attention three years later because he is seeking election to the board of county commissioners on Nov. 2.

Also directing attention to Johnson’s actions is the hittheroadjackj.com website, though Milias contends the site is not a campaign tactic.

Milias, via The Red Ant LLC, has claimed responsibility for the site, which contains a collection of video clips of Johnson on the City Council and examples of his e-mails that, according to the site, disrespect constituents, along with other content.

Milias has not registered a political committee for the website nor reported any expenses, but she said setting up the site, including payment to GrassRoots TV to edit the video clips, cost significantly less than $200 in total. Actually, it cost $212 – $180 for the video work, according to GrassRoots, and $32 for the website setup and a domain name, according to Milias.

She said 11 others were involved with its creation, donating their time to the endeavor.

The county charter requires that independent campaign expenditures of more than $250 be reported, along with the name of the candidate whom the expenditure is intended to support or oppose.

According to Milias, the website does not constitute campaign material, though it reads, in part: “Jack Johnson: not a leader we can believe in.”

“I’m saying voters should look at the site and decide for themselves,” she said.

Johnson said some voters have told him they looked at the site and decided to cast their ballots for him in response to either the tactic or the individuals they suspect are behind it.

“One person even went so far as to tell me to bring [my] yard signs over to her house, which I did,” he said.

Tuesday was the first day ballots could be mailed out to voters. Early voting will take place Monday through Oct. 29. A Squirm Night candidate forum from 6-8 p.m. is set for Thursday, Oct. 21, in the Aspen City Council chambers. Johnson and Ittner will face off in the first hour, followed by sheriff candidates Joe DiSalvo and Rick Leonard.

Rob Ittner has outspent Jack Johnson and has amassed a larger war chest heading into the final weeks of the election campaign for the District 1 Pitkin County commissioner seat.

The latest campaign finance reports from the candidates, filed Tuesday evening with the county clerk and recorder’s office, indicate Ittner spent $1,969 during the period of Sept. 5 to Oct. 7. Johnson spent $1,740 during the same period.

Ittner still had $7,310 on hand at the end of the reporting period, while Johnson reported $4,587 in his coffers. The election is on Nov. 2.

Johnson spent his campaign funds during the latest reporting period on advertising, yard signs, office supplies and the like. Ittner’s spending went to ads, office supplies, credit card fees and e-mails, according to his report.

Ittner reported 27 individual contributors during the latest reporting period, including $200 from the Colorado Restaurant Association. He is the owner of Rustique Bistro in Aspen.

Contributions to Johnson’s campaign came from 32 individuals, including $200 from county Commissioner Rachel Richards, who is running unopposed for re-election in District 2, and $100 from Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland.

Though the candidates were not far apart in spending during the most recent reporting period, Ittner has outspent Johnson by a significant margin since early August.

From Aug. 2 to Sept. 6, Ittner spent $5,290. He raised $4,500 during the same period and had $6,855 in cash on hand to start, leaving him with $6,064 on hand when the most recent reporting period began on Sept. 5.

Johnson reported spending $35 between Aug. 2 and Sept. 4. He collected $690 during that period and had $1,913 available on Aug. 2. He ended that reporting period with $2,568 remaining to start the period that began Sept. 5.

The primary election took place Aug. 10; Johnson and Ittner emerged as the two top vote-getters in the District 1 race, advancing to the Nov. 2 ballot.

janet@aspentimes.com

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