Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I have to admit it. For once, I don’t know what the hell is going on. Please help me figure this out. I just need to know the answer to one simple question: Who is running the city of Aspen’s Election Commission?
Yes, I know that it is supposed to be the three official members appointed for the job: Elizabeth Milias, Chris Bryan and Kathryn Koch. But, I am in possession of a stack of e-mails that puts this assumption in doubt. Is it possible that a disgruntled loser in last spring’s mayoral race has now positioned herself to be in control of this important official body? Ha! Doubtful, right?
Please indulge me for a moment.
At 11:56 a.m. Friday, Sept. 11, of this year, Marilyn Marks (the would-be-if-she-had-her-way mayor of Aspen) sent the following e-mail to Commissioner Milias. It appears to be a template for Milias to word an official letter to the city of Aspen:
“Request for Indemnification
As election commissioners, we are aware of potential litigation and complaints concerning issues of the May 2009 election. Some of the issues extend beyond the context of an election contest and may involve alleged violations of Federal, State and local law. Given the responsibilities of the Election Commission required by City Charter (Section 2.4) and C.R.S. 31-10-105, both cited in your memo of September 8, it seems prudent to request that the City extend full indemnification to Election Commission members, in the same manner that elected officials and City executives and employees are protected against personal liability in the event of litigation.
We ask your immediate and general approval of the extension of the benefits of this indemnification, with specific formal agreement to be entered into by the City and Ms. Milias and Mr. Bryan as soon as practical.”
Seventeen minutes later, Elizabeth Milias forwarded a copy of the message to fellow Election Commissioner Bryan with the following short note:
“Marilyn is absolutely frantic that we request this. Your thoughts?”
One minute later, Bryan responded back to Milias:
“I spoke with a municipal lawyer at my firm. We need only request it after – and if – we are named as defendants in litigation, not before.”
Now, excuse me for being a dumb ass, but is it a stretch of the imagination to connect the dots here and guess that Marilyn Marks was/is planning to sue the city over last spring’s election while intending to protect her friends on the commission who helped her further her complaint(s)? Ask yourself the following questions:
How does Marks appear to know that litigation is imminent?
Why is Marks sending Milias a precisely worded message that she can use verbatim to request personal indemnification from litigation?
How does Milias know that Marks is frantic about her and Bryan getting this indemnification immediately?
How does Bryan get the answer to this legal issue from another attorney in his office and respond back to Milias within a minute after receiving the question from Milias?
Why is Kathryn Koch completely excluded from the discussion and the proposed personal indemnification?
OK, so it sounds too much like a conspiracy theory for you. There is no way that Marilyn Marks is running the Election Committee, right? I thought so too, until I stumbled across another of Milias’ e-mails to Marks on Aug. 11. Koch, at Milias’ request, had explained by e-mail to her and Bryan the Colorado statute and the process under which the May election had been certified and gave the names of those who oversaw it. Apparently unclear as to what Koch said, Milias sent an e-mail to Marks:
“What does C.R.S. stand for? If it’s Colorado Statute, she is using a state statute to trump City Charter…Please advise…”
What?! Why on earth is a member of the Election Committee soliciting advice from the losing candidate in the election which she was charged with overseeing? Call me thunderstruck, but if an election commission member doesn’t know C.R.S. stands for Colorado Revised Statutes, I don’t think she should be asking a former, losing candidate for clarification – especially if that losing candidate has expressed a desire to have the results of that election overturned.
Oh, so you don’t think that she wants to have that election overturned because she has stated as much publicly? Well, check out what Marks has stated privately then. The subject line on an e-mail from Marks to a local attorney, Millard Zimet, on Sept. 11, 2009, and later forwarded to Milias, was (drum roll please): “in addition to voiding the election…”
Well, in addition to wanting to void the election, Marks goes on to discuss the penalty for election misconduct. She closes the e-mail with the quip: “I hear that there is a nice art program sponsored by the Art Museum in the County Jail.” Vindictive? Naw.
Perhaps the most disturbing e-mail I came across from Marks to Milias, however, occurred on Sept. 3, 2009. It reads like a detailed blueprint cooked up by Marks for implementation by Milias, mostly to get the public to pay for an audit of the election results, or barring that, one commissioned with funds that Marks raises herself, the result of which it isn’t much of a stretch to presume she could use in a lawsuit.
In it, she talks worriedly about the time involved with getting legal opinions and going before council to ask for funding (i.e. the process) that could drag on through mid-November, all the while the pre-selected auditors (Harvie and Al, whoever they are) “are teed up to start digging … intensely” on Sept. 15. Included in the heading are the words: “…my thoughts and concerns we discussed,” implying that the strategizing between a former, and potentially (likely?) future mayoral candidate and an Election Commission member has been going on for some time. Yikes!
But, this all could just be my crazy imagination getting the best of me.
Instead of relying on that, I encourage you to read the evidence for yourself. A huge chunk of it has been collected and sorted by former city councilman Jack Johnson, and he will be happy to let you rummage through it. I will warn you, though, allow several hours for your perusal, and consider bringing a barf bag. It might be enough to make you sick.
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