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Attorney general's 23 attempts to serve Bruce come up empty

May 18, 2010
photo - Douglas Bruce, in a file photo. Photo by The Gazette
Douglas Bruce, in a file photo. Photo by The Gazette 

The Colorado Attorney General’s office has made 23 attempts to serve Colorado Springs resident Douglas Bruce with a court order compelling him to testify at a deposition in connection with three campaign-finance complaints.

In a document filed Friday in Denver District Court, the Colorado Attorney General’s office maintains that the in-person attempts, as well as notices sent to Bruce by regular mail, express mail, e-mails and newspaper articles, constitute proof of service.

It’s not clear what happens next. Mike Saccone, an spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said in an e-mail that Bruce could be held in contempt of court. A clerk for Denver District Court Judge Brian Whitney, who is presiding over the matter, said Tuesday that Bruce has not responded to the attorney gerneral’s filing, and no court date has been set.

Bruce is the author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits how much government can grow each year and requires all tax increases be put to a public vote. Bruce could not be reached for comment for this story. He told Gazette reporter Eileen Welsome in an e-mail in January, “Do NOT e-mail me or call me again, EVER.”

Bruce is being sought as a witness in connection with three campaign finance complaints filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office against the backers of three issues that will appear  on the November ballot.

Those measures, known as Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101, will greatly affect the budgets of local and state governments, as well as school districts and other taxing entities.

To get the issues on the ballot, opponents allege an organized and massive signature-gathering campaign was conducted. The backers, they contend, should have disclosed how much money they have received or spent.

Professional and amateur petition circulators gathered about 140,000 signatures for each initiative, far in excess of the 76,000 needed to get on the ballot.

Eight professional petition circulators lived at an apartment house on Boulder Street that was owned by Bruce, records show. Those circulators, who have since moved, collectively gathered 26,000 signatures for each measure.

Coloradans for Responsible Reform, an organization consisting of civic and business leaders, said the three ballot issues  will cost Colorado $4.2 billion annually, result in the loss of an estimated 100,000 jobs, and put the state in a second recession.

According to the attorney general, which is acting as the legal representative of the secretary of state’s office, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office attempted to personally serve Bruce on four occasions between May 4 and May 5. “The sheriff left business cards at respondent’s residence on each visit. On each subsequent visit the business cards had been moved.”

A couple of days later, on May 7, the attorney hired a private process server called Accurate Legal Support Services. “Between May 10th and May 14th, the process server made 19 separate attempts to personally serve respondent,” the court documents state.

On May 10, for example, the process server looked in several locations for Bruce. At 2 p.m,, he went to City Hall. At 2:35 p.m., he went to Bruce’s residence. He returned to Bruce’s house at 8 that night and also stopped by the post office at 8:40 p.m. where Bruce has a mailbox. The process server said he found census documents on the residence door, and later saw that an outside light was on.

On May 11, the process server returned to Bruce’s house at 7:30 a.m. and at 11:45 a.m. He swung by the post office at 6:15 p.m. and the house at 6:20 p.m. This time he noted newspapers on the front step and sidewalk of the residence and trash in a trash can. He also spoke with a neighbor, left a phone message for Bruce, and stopped at four of Bruce’s rental properties.

From May 12 to 14, the process server made the rounds again, varying the times he knocked on Bruce’s door or stopped the post office. On one occasion, he noted the older newspapers were gone. On another occasion, he observed that the census documents had been moved. On a third, he spotted a light on in the basement.

Bruce was also sent a copy of the judge’s order by overnight express mail and by e-mail. His e-mail was working, and as proof, Assistant Attorney General Lee Hegner included some recent correspondence.

In one e-mail to Hegner and Attorney General John Suthers, Bruce took aim at the judge presiding over the administrative court hearing, saying that the postponements have resulted in potential fines of $50 a day, or roughly $18,000, against each of the six backers.

“They also want to create bad publicity, to tie up the proponents in court so they cannot start campaigning, and to make an example of anyone who dares to propose a petition government hates.”

He added, “The state has great hostility to these petitions, and is taking illegal actions to show it. This innocent bystander is now caught up in this official screw job of those whose only violation was petitioning government for fiscal restraints.”

The campaign finance hearing is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

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