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Gaebler files complaint against election opponent over campaign literature

March 25, 2017 Updated: March 25, 2017 at 10:25 am
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Jill Gaebler February 3, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Jill Gaebler filed a criminal complaint with District Attorney Dan May on Friday over campaign literature distributed by her opponent in the April 4 election for the Colorado Springs City Council.

Gaebler, the council president pro tem seeking re-election in District 5, is distressed about mailings by Lynette Crow-Iverson's campaign criticizing her for a vote she never made.

The flier in question says: "City Councilwoman and Colorado Municipal League Executive Board Member Jill Gaebler voted unanimously (sic) to oppose House Bill 17-1134, which would 'Hold Colorado Government Accountable for Creating Sanctuary Jurisdiction Policies.'"

Colorado Municipal League Executive Director Sam Mamet has said repeatedly Gaebler was not present. Minutes from that meeting list Gaebler and another member as absent. In an email to the Colorado Municipal League sent at 8:09 a.m. Feb. 17, Gaebler advised that she couldn't attend.

Gaebler said she hasn't determined whether the law also would provide for a complaint against state Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, who has continued to send emails criticizing the vote that didn't occur.

But, she said, "We found out that if a campaign purposely lies about information it's putting out, that is a criminal misdemeanor act."

Crow-Iverson said by email, "I review and approve all mailing that comes from my campaign, as well (as) anything that I send out. Representative Williams, House Dist. 15, sent me a chain of emails from . . . CML verifying Jill's vote.

"We did our due diligence," she said.

Said Mamet, "One of my staff colleagues made a mistake. I am sorry she made a mistake."

Williams could not be reached for comment.

The District Attorney's Office received the formal complaint Friday and opened a criminal investigation, said Lee Richards, spokeswoman for the office.

The issue centers on the Colorado Municipal League's Feb. 17 vote by the 19 members present, unanimously opposing Williams' HB 1134.

The bill - which has been shelved indefinitely - was aimed at holding state, municipal and other elected officials criminally liable if an undocumented migrant committed a crime within their jurisdiction. It also would have introduced civil penalties against those creating policies like those in sanctuary cities. The bill did not bar sanctuary cities.

"We opposed it based on basic policy principles of not being exposed to extraordinary liability," Mamet said.

Williams' emails and Crow-Iverson's campaign literature cite a Colorado Municipal League staff member's email response to Williams regarding Gaebler.

"Our board voted unanimously to oppose so yes I believe she did agree with the staff recommendation," says the email, which Mamet said was in error.

Crow-Iverson's Thursday email to The Gazette again refers to the Colorado Municipal League staff member's response, saying it "verified that the vote was unanimous."

But if Gaebler didn't attend, Crow-Iverson asked, "Why wasn't Jill at this important board meeting, and would Jill have voted against or for this bill knowing how our city feels about sanctuary cities?"

Gaebler has declared her opposition to sanctuary cities in multiple forums.

Although The Gazette reported March 18 on Gaebler's absence, Williams sent another email blast Monday, accusing her of voting to support sanctuary cities and the "left-wing" Colorado Municipal League of "now trying to backpedal."

"We are a strictly nonpartisan organization," Mamet said. "We do not get involved in endorsing candidates ... And I won't get into name-calling. That's not our style."

The Colorado Municipal League board represents the elected officials and appointed staff of 269 cities and towns from every area of Colorado, he said. "We study issues at the Capitol that have some effect on operations of city governments. That's who we are, pure and simple."

Richards said state law deems it a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly circulate false statement about a candidate for public office.

If false claims are made "recklessly" rather than knowingly, it's a Class 2 misdemeanor, Richards said.

Such complaints aren't unusual, Richards said, and May tries to resolve them as quickly as possible.

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