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Councilwoman Helen Collins survives recall effort

April 8, 2015 Updated: April 8, 2015 at 4:10 am
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photo - Bill Murray, Charlie Ehler and Helen Collins. Photo by Debbie Kelley, The Gazette.
Bill Murray, Charlie Ehler and Helen Collins. Photo by Debbie Kelley, The Gazette. 

Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Helen Collins survived an attempt to oust her from office, according to unofficial results from Tuesday's municipal election.

Residents in District 4 on the city's southeast side voted roughly 55 percent to 45 percent to reject a recall of the first-term councilwoman.

Collins, 59, was elected to a four-year term in 2013 but became the target of a rare city recall effort launched by a trio of residents in her district. They said Collins wasn't representing the area on stormwater and other key issues and complained that she's too closely tied to Douglas Bruce, author of the state's tax-limitation law and a felon.

Collins said she was pleased that voters allowed her to keep her council seat. The rejection of the recall was the result of "informed voters seeing what's going on," she said.

"I just want people to be more informed about city government," Collins said.

Collins noted that while the recall effort was said to be about her opposition to a proposed stormwater fee on November's ballot, the majority of voters in her district didn't support the initiative.

Deborah Hendrix, one of the residents who launched the recall, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Collins recall effort was the first against an elected city official since a special recall election in December 1983. Voters rejected a recall of then-Councilman Dave Sarton.

Even if Collins survives the recall, she faces other issues.

An investigation continues into an ethics complaint brought against her Jan. 21 by the City Attorney's Office.

That complaint filed with the city's Independent Ethics Commission alleges Collins participated in a real estate deal with Bruce that helped him avoid payment of a nearly $7,600 court judgment that he had been ordered to pay the city. That judgment stemmed from an unsuccessful lawsuit Bruce brought against the city in 2013.

The complaint against Collins cited portions of the city's Ethics Code that require Springs officials to demonstrate loyalty to the city and avoid activities that conflict with their official duties and responsibilities.

Citing Ethics Code provisions, the complaint said any financial penalty levied against Collins should be "double the amount of the judgment that was avoided as a result of her participation in the (Bruce) transaction," which would be $15,139.22.

The five-member Ethics Commission is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the City Administration Building, 30 S. Nevada Ave. Commission members are expected to update each other on the status of their investigation, said Jane Feldman, a Denver attorney hired by the City Attorney's Office to represent the commission. The meeting is open to the public, although commission members are likely to adjourn into a closed-door, executive session.

Feldman said commission members have interviewed five or six people and subpoenaed documents as part of their investigation.

Collins has until the end of the day Friday to formally respond to the complaint, Feldman said.

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The Gazette's Debbie Kelley contributed to this report.

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