Colorado Springs Government Watch wants to know if the father of Colorado’s tax limitation movement Douglas Bruce is the man behind Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Helen Collins’ proposed policies.
Collins did pose recently with Bruce in a photo looking friendly. But, so did the executive director of the group investigating the connection between Collins and Bruce. (see photo)
The newly formed group, headed by Dede Laugesen (wife of The Gazette’s Opinion page editor Wayne Laugesen), filed two requests under the Colorado Open Records Act asking for all of the correspondence between Collins and Bruce.
“The concern is we are looking to see who is influencing her proposals,” Laugesen said. “There is a real sense that people are represented by Douglas Bruce -- that she is taking marching orders from Douglas Bruce.”
Laugesen said the concerns have bubbled up from residents who live in Collins’ District 4, where the southeast neighborhoods surround Peterson Air Force Base. Earlier this month, a group of citizens from District 4 initiated a recall effort against Collins. Laugesen said the government watch group and the recall effort are not connected.
Collins recently advanced an idea to ask voters to modify the Rural Transportation Authority funding plan -- which is for roads and transportation -- to set aside money for stormwater fixes.
Laugesen said the proposal sounds like Bruce’s anti-rain tax language.
“The verbiage comes from Bruce,” she said. “We are trying to get to the bottom of this. Is it coming from Collins or is it coming from Bruce. Her constituents have the right to know who is representing them.”
The nonprofit Colorado Springs Government Watch formed in November and set its sights on former City Councilman Joel Miller, asking for correspondence to and from legislative lobbyist Steve Durham and political consultant Patrick Davis. Miller resigned his council seat in late November and is running for mayor.
The government watch group, which has not revealed its board of directors or who is behind the effort, has sent two CORA requests to Collins. Laugesen said that Collins’ response was that CORA requests need to be directed to the City’s Attorney.
Collins, in an email to The Gazette, said she did not know the motivation behind the group’s requests.
“Why don't you ask her who's in the group? She'll probably say it's secret,” Collins wrote.
The group’s website posted a photo of Collins with Bruce. The site says “Acting on tips and other information we had received, we had asked the first-term councilwoman for documents that could shed light on her longtime relationship with controversial political activist Douglas Bruce, as well as with outspoken local activist Kanda Calef.”
Laugesen, who also appeared on Facebook in June 2012 in similarly posed photo with Bruce at his “jail release party” said she had been friendly with Bruce at one time but no longer is. She said she did not ask Bruce about his relationship with Collins. In 2012, Bruce was sentenced to 6 months in jail for tax evasion, among other things.
Laugesen said posting the photo of Collins and Bruce was fair.
“It does show the close relationship council member Collins has with Douglas Bruce,” she said. “It is in part guilt by association.”