May 24, 2010
DENVER • Colorado Springs resident Douglas Bruce was a guiding force behind a massive signature-gathering campaign that led to placement on the November ballot of three controversial measures, testimony in a campaign finance complaint hearing revealed Monday.
Bruce, who has a law degree, not only advised the sponsors of the ballot issues on how to file court motions, but he also advised one proponent not to testify at the hearing and to destroy his e-mail, testimony and records submitted during the hearing indicate.
The surprise witness at the hearing was Michelle Northrup, a 38-year-old writer from Black Hawk. Northrup testified that she didn’t approve of the evasion tactics being used by the other backers of the ballot issues and didn’t “approve of orders being barked at me” by Bruce.
Northrup and Golden resident Russell Haas are sponsors of Amendment 61, which restricts borrowing by state and local governments without voter approval.
Louis Schroeder, a Greenwood Village resident, and Bonnie Solan, also of Black Hawk, are listed as sponsors of Amendment 60, which would, among other things, cut school district mill levy rates and restore TABOR tax limits.
Proposition 101 is sponsored by Freda Poundstone, a well-known Denver Republican and Jeff Gross, a house painter from Kersey.
Bruce, the author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, has sought to distance himself from the three measures.
But testimony by Northrup and other proponents reveal that he gave detailed advice to the sponsors not only about the language of the ballot measures, but other intricate processes associated with getting approved for the ballot by the Secretary of State’s Office and the signature-gathering campaign.
Bruce was subpoenaed as a witness in the hearing. But he has refused to comply and has been evading attempts by process servers and sheriff’s deputies to serve him with a court order that would compel compliance.
Mark Grueskin, the lawyer representing a coalition of civic and business leaders opposed to the ballot issues, sought to delay the case until Bruce and other witnesses could be brought into the courtroom, but Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer denied the motion.
Northrup testified that she and Haas met with Bruce long before the three ballot issues were made public to go over their measure.
“It was like a Bible study meeting,” she said.
Northrup also testified that she received several calls and e-mails from Bruce after she received a subpoena to testify at the campaign finance hearing.
“And what did Mr. Bruce tell you?” Grueskin asked.
“The gist of it was that I was overreacting,” responded Northrup.
Northrup testified that Bruce then sent her a motion to quash the subpoena and some instructions:
“Here is the motion. Remember to SIGN it. Mail it ASAP to the court (address at top of motion). Pay $1.15 for a ‘certificate of mailing’ at the post office. Mail a copy to Grueskin at his law firm. Keep a couple of signed copies. Show up on the 15th and refuse to testify. Don’t talk to Grueskin anymore.”
Northrup said she didn’t approve of the evasive responses that Haas and Gross gave in their depositions or the way that Bruce has been evading the court order.
In one phone call, Bruce ordered Northrup not to talk to the media. She said she found his bossiness irritating.
“I told him, ‘I don’t know you. I don’t know who you are. I’m not going to do something just because you say so,’” she said.