Violating an oath
Although the Aspen Daily News came somewhat closer to getting the sense of the situation than The Aspen Times, both news organizations were much too subtle in their coverage of the funding petitions that recently were rejected by the Pitkin County clerk.
Let’s make things perfectly clear.
The clerk claims that she consulted the county commissioners before reaching her decision, which means we might have as many as five elected officials who have violated their oath of office.
The clerk herself knows with a certainty she has violated her oath of office, which begins with the words, “I, Janice K. Vos Caudill, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and Constitution of this State …”
It often happens that the language of the state or federal constitution is open to interpretation, and reasonable people might disagree as to its meaning. That is not the case in this instance.
In the section of the state constitution that sets up the rules for a “non-recall petition or referred measure” for tax related questions, particularly proposals for an increase in taxes or debt, we are told, “All provisions are self-executing and severable and supersede conflicting state constitutional, state statutory, charter, or other state or local provisions.”
The preceding sentence cannot be misunderstood or misinterpreted, and there is no defense, explanation or excuse for the action taken by the county clerk.
The clerk, the county attorney, and some unknown number of county commissioners have just informed every person in Pitkin County that they consider us to be too stupid and lazy to care if they violate the state constitution for their own personal and/or political purposes.
I told reporters two very important things that did not make it into their articles. The first message to the county commissioners is that if a citizen-initiated tax proposal conflicts with their own plans, they need to win that argument at the polls, and not by abusing the legal system in an attempt to crush anyone with whom they disagree.
The second message was that this would be a good time for one of those famous executive sessions. That would afford them the opportunity to discover that the words “levy of taxes” in the Pitkin County Charter might apply to some sort of petition which could interfere with the manner in which taxes are collected, and therefore be an administrative function not subject to the initiative process. However, those words can’t possibly be applied to a proposal for an increase in taxes and debt, because that interpretation would be unconstitutional.
I’m just sure they wouldn’t want that, aren’t you?
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